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Who Jumped It Best? The Buxom Bunny of Le Lion d’Angers

Who Jumped It Best?

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Le Lion d’Angers is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

It seems wrong, somehow, to be pitting a bunch of fresh-faced six-year-old horses against one another in this most cutthroat of internet competitions — I think I’d rather give every one of these toddlers a tiara and send them on their merry way, but alas, they must learn to fight like gladiators now or the real world will be a mighty shock.

Our Who Jumped It Best competition today comes from the Six-Year-Old World Championship, which took place last week at Le Lion d’Angers in central France. Though Le Lion’s course isn’t known for being overly technical — these are young, green horses, after all — it is known for being something of a work of art, with creatively-built fences that include a bushy hedgehog, an enormous violin, a watering can, and a truly horrifying spider, complete with colossal timber legs. This fence, a rather suggestive rabbit, reclined outside the Le Lion chateau and made up part of a tableau of characters from fables, which included a tortoise, a toad, and a huge storybook. Okay, okay, maybe that means that this is actually a hare, not a bunny, but it took me long enough to come up with that cheeky bit of alliteration for the headline, so I’m afraid I’ve got to commit to it now.

Anyway, cast your eye over this collection of up-and-coming cuties, who bravely tackled this single fence in front of a very loud, very enthusiastic audience, and then scroll down to cast your vote for your favourite. It’s a tricky angle to give style points for, so we won’t mind if you vote based on how adorable your fave’s face is instead. That’s what we’d do, frankly.

Julia Krajewski and Great Twist d’Ive (GER). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Arianna Schivo and First Lady de Belheme (ITA). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Caroline Harris and Pepper Poldark (GBR). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Casper Rasmussen and Chaccadee (DEN). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Eliska Opravilova and Vila Rufa (CZE). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ian Cassells and Rosconnell Alto (IRE). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Isabel English and Cil Dara Dallas (AUS). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Marcio Carvalho Jorge and Royal Encounter (BRA). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Peter Flarup and Casaline (DEN). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Le Lion d’Angers: Website, Entries, Ride Times and Live Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage 

Tuesday News and Notes from Legends Horse Feeds

Written by both 🇬🇧 & 🇯🇵
日本語は下のほうにあります。

The Biggest chapter (for now!) in my life is now over.
It was such an amazing…

Posted by Kazuma Tomoto on Monday, October 25, 2021

Working in this extraordinary sport, I’m so lucky to meet people every day who inspire me — whether they’re riders who’ve overcome the odds to come out on top, or grooms who’ve poured years of love and long hours into ensuring their horses are thriving, or organisers who desperately want to see the sport succeed, or any of the other myriad cogs in this enormous machine who make little miracles happen every day. But one of the standout people who I think all of us are united in being wholly inspired by is Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto.

Initially a successful showjumper based in Tokyo, he swapped to eventing just a small handful of years ago to help his country towards a successful Olympic campaign. He had to relocate to do so, and moved to England to base himself with William Fox-Pitt, leaving behind his beloved wife and daughter and arriving in a country where even the language was initially almost totally incomprehensible to him. Within a year of swapping disciplines, he very nearly won the prestigious eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S at Blenheim, and throughout his tenure here, he’s been one of the most competitive, competent riders on the British circuit. More notably, though, he’s also the kindest and most humble, always taking the time to share a broad smile and a kind word with anyone who crosses his path and extending the same gentleness to his string of horses, too, all of whom are doted on and sympathetically produced.

The postponement of the Olympics was an inconvenience to many people, but for those riders who had relocated to prepare for it, it was more than that: it was an extra year away from their loved ones, made even tougher by tight travel restrictions and the added difficulty of time zones, which make even a FaceTime session incredibly tricky to organise. But Kazu and his teammates — and the other temporarily European-based riders from further afield — never complained. They all kept on embracing the challenge, rising to it, and reigning supreme over it. Now, finally, Kazu gets to go home — and while we’re all so excited to welcome him back next year as he chases down a spot at the World Equestrian Games, I hope he has a truly excellent break from all his hard work, and I truly hope he realises what a huge contribution he and his teammates have made to our sport over the last few years.

Events Opening Today: Full Gallop Farm Jingle Bells H.T

Events Closing Today: Tryon International 3-Day EventRiver Glen Fall H.T.Horse Trials at Majestic Oaks,

Tuesday News:

We’re heading to the final CCI5* of the 2021 season this week — can you believe it? It feels like I only left Pau after the culmination of last year’s edition about two weeks ago. This year’s field is a really exciting one, and we’ll be diving into it over the next couple of days with the release of our bumper form guide, but in the meantime, find out all about British duo Alex Bragg and King of the Mill, who head to France after a tricky season.

Planning to go all in on Halloween with your horse this year? I love you for that and I truly, desperately hope you send photos of the end product to EN, because over-the-top costumes truly are my love language. But while you’re planning your look, you’re likely conscious of not wanting to overstep the line between appreciation and appropriation — so USEF has put together a handy guide to making sure your costume is a thriller, not a vibe killer.

Some people make extraordinary feats a part of their daily life — and Lucy Booker-Wilson is one of them. She’s registered blind due to a genetic disorder called Stargardt’s Disease, which has caused her vision to steadily degenerate over the last few years. But the keen rider didn’t want to let that stop her from getting out and about, and she’s managed to adapt to jumping despite not being able to see the fence. Now the rider, who has qualified for the National Hunter Trial Championships, wants other riders to know that losing their sight doesn’t have to mean losing their dreams.

Like most people, I’ve always thought that horses first made their way to the Americas with the Spanish settlers. That’s the story that I read countless times in those enormous breed encyclopaedias that aunts and uncles always seem to buy horsey kids for Christmas, and as a pre-teen riding at an Appaloosa show barn, it was parroted in all the breed literature that the stock breed societies put out, too. But there’s actually a lot of compelling evidence to suggest that native horse breeds existed in North America before the Spanish arrived, and as a total breed nerd, this might be the most interesting thing I’ve read in weeks.

Tuesday Video Break:

It’s so good to have Ingrid Klimke back in action after her spate of bad luck earlier this year, which saw her sidelined with a serious injury — and several of her top horses temporarily benched, too. Now that she’s back, she’s going full-throttle — and most recently, she heading to Herning, Denmark, for the FEI Dressage World Cup with Franziskus, her Tokyo-longlisted mount. Check out their freestyle and take a minute to light a candle on your shrine; I know I will.

A Double of Wire-to-Wire Wins Caps off Young Horse World Championships

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Le Lion d’Angers is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

Anna Lena Schaaf delivers three performances marked by their maturity to win the Six-Year-Old World Championship with Lagona 4. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

What were you doing at 20? I was mostly waitressing, riding a lot of rogue young horses, and making awful decisions in sticky-floored university nightclubs, and I’d wager most of you were on a similar path. But Germany’s Anna Lena Schaaf has been putting her mind to some serious stuff: this year alone, she’s become the Reserve Young Rider European Champion, winning team gold in the process, she’s stepped up to CCI4*-S and won on her debut, and now she’s piloted her own Lagona 4 to become the Six-Year-Old World Champion, leading throughout the competition on her debut here. Today, with an extraordinary amount of pressure on her shoulders, she rode with a maturity well beyond her years to coax her mare to a penalty-free round, allowing them to finish on their dressage score of 25.8 and secure the title.

“She was really focused and just only amazing,” says a delighted Anna Lena, who is in the middle of her training at the German Federation headquarters in Warendorf and previously rode on the German junior team coached by Julia Krajewski.

Anna Lena’s family is steeped in eventing, and throughout her career so far, she’s ridden horses bred by her grandparents — but the Oldenburg mare Lagona 4 is the first horse she’s ever bought herself from outside the family production line. From the first time she rode her, it was Lagona’s heart that won her over.

“She only wants to try her best every day. She makes me proud every day — I don’t know if she’s a four-star horse yet, but she really tries her best every day and so maybe she will be, because she has a big heart, and that’s it in the end, I think.”

Anna Lena Schaaf processes her latest win. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though so many horses back off when faced with Le Lion’s extraordinary crowds, Lagona has risen to them throughout the week — and today, as she cantered into the main arena in the wake of the applause for the French rider before her, she did so brimming with the self-confidence that the praise was all for her.

“She was so not impressed by the crowd yesterday, and today she was really like, ‘okay, I’m the best,'” laughs Anna Lena.

Julia Krajewski, who was Anna Lena’s coach when she won team and individual gold at the Junior European Championships in 2019, was quick to praise the rider, who she continues to train alongside at Warendorf: “She’s an excellent rider, as she has proven this weekend and last weekend when she won her first four-star event. The German team always needs new talents, particularly those who are capable of training young horses.”

Last year at this event, we saw the rise of Germany’s next big thing when Sophie Leube took the seven-year-old title — now, we can feasibly expect Anna Lena to follow in her footsteps.

Nicolas Touzaint claims the Vice Champion title for his impressive Fibonacci de Lessac HDC. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Something funny happens to the Le Lion crowd when Nicolas Touzaint enters the arena: they all begin screaming, and cheering, and stopping just shy of throwing their knickers into the ring for their hero, who possesses the most extraordinary ability to keep his horses focused on the job through all the hullabaloo. This morning, he gave his enthusiastic fans something to really cheer about, delivering a speedy clear that allowed him to finish on his dressage score of 26.8 with the Selle Français gelding Fibonacci de Lessac HDC. That secured him the bronze at worst, but he was able to step into silver medal position when fellow countryman Tom Carlile, who’d been in second throughout the competition with the Upsilon daughter Fair Lady des Broucks, toppled to seventeenth after the mare got spooked by the raucous cheers and tipped an unfortunate three rails.

Italy’s Rebecca Chiappero executes the deftest leaderboard leap of the week, moving from 14th to bronze medal position with Bonmahon Chelsea. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

You don’t often see huge climbs up the leaderboard at Le Lion d’Angers, and it’s even rarer in the six-year-old class — but Italy’s Rebecca Chiappero defied the odds to take the bronze with Irish Sport Horse Bonmahon Chelsea, having started their week in fourteenth place. Adding nothing to their 30.9 dressage yesterday pushed them up to 10th, and their clear round with just 0.8 time today let them keep on rising, much to the rider’s surprise.

“It was unbelievable — I was tenth after cross-country, and so you can imagine that someone might have one down, but this many? I’m over the moon,” she says.

Bonmahon Chelsea’s career so far is the result of a leap of faith: though Rebecca tends to prefer a higher percentage of blood and a much lighter type of horse, she bought him unseen from a video as a three-year-old, and decided to hang onto him on her mother’s recommendation.

“It’s not very easy all the way, because he wasn’t my type of horse, but my mother said, ‘you don’t have to sell this horse — I want to keep it,'” she remembers. “And she was right! You’d think this horse wouldn’t have the blood to gallop and jump, but when you see him move, he’s special. And even if we already had requests to buy him, my mother has always fought for him to stay.”

Along the way, the son of Chellsini Z has proven to have a character as big as his jump.

“He’s a clown,” laughs Rebecca. “You could have him like a dog in your house.”

But even with her fondness for him, Rebecca didn’t necessarily come to Le Lion feeling totally confident that they’d nailed the preparation: “We had our last competition last month, and it wasn’t very good — he had a stop at the water. So you arrive not in the right mood, and yesterday, with all the crowds, I was worried. But he was so focused and did a super clear, and today it was like the crowd was pumping him up.”

Isabel English and Cil Dara Dallas climb to finish just off the podium. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

UK-based Australian Isabel English took fourth place with Cil Dara Dallas, an Australian Sport Horse gelding by Diarado, who looks rather like what you’d get if you asked any horse-mad 13-year-old girl to describe her dream horse. Leggy, dappled, and with enormous doe eyes, the gelding’s certainly a bit of a pin-up — but his 29.9 first-phase score, penalty-free cross-country round, and today’s classy clear proved that the homebred is much more than that. Slightly frustratingly for Bella, they picked up two time penalties in today’s finale, in which the clock was surprisingly hard to catch — just one second less would have earned them a podium place, but the disappointment can’t be too deep-seated for the rider and her family, whose breeding programme back home in Australia is proving a real success.

Julia Krajewski finishes fifth with the eye-catching ChinTonic 3. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s Julia Krajewski took fifth place with the Hanoverian gelding ChinTonic 3, who had one green rail but has looked incredibly impressive all week long. By Contendro and out of a Heraldik mare, ChinTonic — who won last year’s German Bundeschampionate — is a full brother to fischerChipmunk FRH, who has competed at the World Equestrian Games with Julia and the Tokyo Olympics with Michael Jung. That’s reason enough to get excited, of course, but even more compelling is the fact that ChinTonic has now massively outperformed his ultra-famous brother at Le Lion: Chipmunk made one appearance here, competing in the seven-year-old class in 2015, but finished 29th after picking up 20 penalties across the country. We’ll need to wait a couple more years before we see if ChinTonic has what it takes to battle it out at the very top level, but at the moment, he looks to be a fierce contender in Julia’s hunt to defend her Olympic gold in three years’ time.

Caroline Martin and King’s Especiale finish in a respectable 20th place after a classy clear round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The US’s Caroline Martin finished in 20th place with the exciting King’s Especiale after loping their way to a totally penalty-free round — one of just six to be delivered across the 42 starters. For Caroline, who hopes to produce the KWPN son of Connect as a team horse for the USA, his three solid performances through the week, plus his first-ever exposure to championship atmosphere and the rigamarole of international travel, have earned him the horsey equivalent of a Master’s degree. We look forward to seeing him hop over the pond again to earn his phD.

The final top ten in the 2021 Six-Year-Old World Championships.

Kevin McNab takes a wire-to-wire victory in the Seven-Year-Old World Championship riding Scuderia 1918’s Cute Girl. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Le Lion, like all French fixtures, comes complete with its own set of funny little traditions, and among its best-loved and longest-standing is its use of Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman’ as its de facto theme song. It’s used to herald the start of each session of dressage, occasionally blares out of a speaker at a trot-up with neither warning nor explanation and, of course, it’s used to usher the competitors into the arena for the prizegiving ceremony when all is said and done.

“It feels like a good omen, doesn’t it?” I said to a fellow journalist this morning as we stamped our feet against the chill of the final horse inspection. “She’s come to the competition a Cute Girl, and she’ll leave it a pretty woman. Or something like that, anyway.”

Kevin McNab’s newly-minted World Champion Cute Girl shows why she’s head and shoulders above the rest. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Okay, alright, I put my hands up: it’s cheesier than a Frenchman’s shopping basket, and I did get laughed down by the journalist. But I wasn’t wrong. And when Australia’s Kevin McNab delivered a foot-perfect clear round to take a pillar to post victory in the Seven-Year-Old World Championship with Scuderia 1918’s Holsteiner mare Cute Girl, I certainly let myself bask in the glory of that distinctive opening arpeggio.

This is the second year in a row wherein the seven-year-old winner has seemed to be fated after a bit of bad luck the year prior. In 2020, we saw Germany’s Sophie Leube win this class with the Trakehner stallion Sweetwaters Ziethen TSF, a year after horrendous conditions on the final day cost him his shot at the six-year-old title when he skidded into the base of a fence and wasn’t able to take off. This time around, it was the turn of Cute Girl, who was so impressive in the first two phases of her six-year-old appearance but was unfortunately eliminated when her rider missed a fence on cross-country — the first time he’d ever made such a mistake, and surely the last time we’ll ever see it happen for poor, abashed Kevin. But what a redemption arc this week has proven to be: they took the lead at the tail end of the first phase on a sparkling score of 26.9, added nothing to it across the country, and delivered the goods again with style and confidence today to make the mare our new Seven-Year-Old World Champion.

“She’s been so good,” says Kevin. “She feels so much more mature this year than she did last year, and I know last year she was in a good place.”

What has made the mare so special throughout her career so far is her drive and focus — that extra little bit of sparkle that could make her tricky, but instead makes her competitive. That made her the perfect candidate for a much-anticipated return visit to Le Lion: “it’s one of those events that we love coming to, and it’s great when you’re on this end of the podium,” say the rider, who is based in Surrey, England, with a laugh. “But it’s always a great event regardless, and I think it’s a great event for the horses for the future, so even if we weren’t winning we’d still enjoy it!”

Got air? Cute Girl certainly does. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Enjoy it they certainly did — the extended McNab clan, which includes fellow competitors Isabel English and Avery Klunick, both of whom are based with Kevin and his wife Emma, have been a tight-knit and positive bunch this week, and all of them turned out in force to watch Kevin and Cute Girl deliver their final performance. And as it turned out, Cute Girl enjoyed it just as much as her support crew did.

“She felt really good in there. She wasn’t affected by the atmosphere; she was really focused and easy to ride. The time was a little tight, so we had to keep travelling, but she gave me a great round and she felt really careful, so it looked good at the end of the day,” says Kevin.

Laura Collett’s Outback rises to the occasion to become the reserve Seven-Year-Old World Champion. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Despite some initial misgivings about whether the quirky, spooky Outback would suit Le Lion’s full-on atmosphere, Laura Collett‘s commitment to the long game has paid dividends this week: though he’s not totally over his suspicion of crowds (or the French), the Trakehner gelding by Duke of Hearts took confidence from his positive experience in Aachen’s novelty Ride & Drive class last month and stayed totally with his rider throughout the week’s competition. Three excellent performances, starting with a 27.2 dressage score, allowed them to remain in second place from start to finish, and Laura is delighted to head into her final event of the 2021 season with a Reserve World Champion in her string. But although his clear round today looked smooth and easy, that belied the true difficulty of the challenge laid out for these talented young horses.

“It was a really tough showjumping track — the time was really tight, and the atmosphere is like Badminton,” says Laura. “These young horses haven’t experienced that, so I was so proud of my horse for going in there and listening to me, which is what he’s done all week. That’s really made the difference; he’s trusted me and come up with the answers, so I’m over the moon with him.”

Selina Milnes and the extravagant Cooley Snapchat take bronze. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Great Britain’s Selina Milnes climbed from an initial fourth place after dressage to eventual bronze with Cooley Snapchat, whose tight, tidy, and gravity-defying jump made a clear round seem almost an inevitability. But like her competitors, Selina went into the ring achingly aware of how tricky the course was — and how tough the time allowed would be to catch. In the end, she didn’t quite manage to get it; Cooley Snapchat lost some time in the air, ultimately adding 0.8 penalties for finishing two seconds into the red, but such was the influence of today’s finale that that was enough to secure the pair a podium position, particularly after a rail and time penalties dropped previously fourth-placed Sarah Bullimore and Evita AP down to eleventh, giving Selena a slight buffer.

“I watched the first ten go and I didn’t see one clear — and everyone was having time faults,” says Selina. “I was like, ‘oh, no, here we go!’ But he just rises to the occasion and the atmosphere actually lifts him, I think, and he went in there and jumped his little socks off.”

The Irish Sport Horse gelding by Kannan has been competitive in his seven-year-old season, winning at Novice and Intermediate and logging top ten finishes at CCI3*-S and CCI2*-L — but even so, Selina wasn’t always sure about aiming for Le Lion at the end of the year.

“I was a little bit worried when we came, thinking would the atmosphere [would be tough for him], but he’s just shone,” says Selina, who last rode here 15 years ago with a horse who would go on to CCI5* level. “It’s my favourite event, and I’ve been desperate to come back — I’ve had horses qualified, but then I’ve injured myself before we’ve got here!”

Gemma Tattersall’s aptly-named Johansome takes fourth place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gemma Tattersall‘s Johansome really is, well, so handsome, and the Dutch Warmblood son of Lexicon proved that he’s more than just a pretty face this week, climbing up to eventual fourth place from initial 11th by finishing on his dressage score of 29.8.

Hayden Hankey and Heads Up round out the top five in a competitive seven-year-old line-up. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hayden Hankey made up some of the ground lost yesterday, when he and the OBOS Quality gelding Heads Up dropped from third to seventh with their two time penalties accrued across the country, by jumping a solid clear for just 0.4 time today. That allowed them to step back up into fifth place, and proved once again how much potential the lanky gelding has as he matures over the next couple of years.

Cole Horn and MBF Cooley Permission To Land finish in 31st on their international debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cole Horn finished 31st with MBF Cooley Permission To Land, completing their first trip abroad — on what is just Cole’s 13th FEI start — with a showjumping round that saw them knock two rails and add 1.2 time penalties. The pair, who received the US Eventing Holekamp/Turner Grant to compete here, did so with two sets of eyes firmly looking to the future, and the education and experience the amassed will prove a vital stepping stone en route to bigger things to come.

Avery Klunick and Pisco Sour finish their week with a classy clear round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The same can certainly be said for Avery Klunick and Pisco Sour, who moved over to the UK in June to base themselves with the McNabs. After a steady clear yesterday, in which Avery opted to focus on giving her horse a confidence-building experience, she came out mounted on a fresh, bright-eyed horse today, and together, the pair pinged their way to one of the day’s rare clear rounds. Though their 1.6 time penalties would stop them from joining the elite eleven who added nothing in this phase, the pair’s three positive phases give them a great starting point in their ongoing journey across the pond.

“I’ve told Kevin that I’m a piece of coal, and he has to help turn me into a diamond,” jokes Avery, who works full time in finance and focuses all her precious riding time on Pisco, her only horse.

And so we come to the end of another incredible week at Le Lion d’Angers — but don’t put your berets away just yet, folks. We’re on the road again, and this time we’re heading south to Les 5 Etoiles de Pau, the final CCI5* of the 2021 season, which kicks off on Thursday morning. Jump in and join us for the ride.

The final top ten in the 2021 Seven-Year-Old World Championship.

Le Lion d’Angers: Website, Entries, Ride Times and Live Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage 

The Cream Stays on Top in Le Lion Cross-Country Challenge

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Le Lion d’Angers is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

France’s Alexis Goury encourages the vocal crowd to cheer even louder as he tackles the latter part of the CCI3*-L course with Elastic Girl Blanche. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The French get a lot of stick for their military prowess, but actually, many historians agree that the country has mounted the highest number of successful military campaigns in European history — and frankly, it’s not hard to see why a passionate throng of 25,000 French people might yield the combined power to take over the whole world, if that was the sort of thing they fancied doing. That’s how many spectators descended upon the World Championships for Six- and Seven-Year-Olds in Le Lion d’Angers today, and after a year away from their favourite venue, which ran behind closed doors last year, they were eager to double down on their vocal support of each and every competitor.

This is what makes Le Lion really, inimitably special. Yes, it’s a World Championship, and that would be enough of an accolade to make all of us who are so deeply entrenched in the heart of the sport sit up and take notice — but ultimately, it’s all about the atmosphere, which is unlike any other event in the world. And for these young up-and-coming horses, some of whom will become the Olympic medallists of the future, it’s their first chance to come face-to-face with cheering fans in their tens of thousands, pressing themselves against the ropes and screaming their support well before the horses even lock onto the fence.

For some, it’s all a bit too much to handle, and they back off and lose focus. For others, it’s the impetus they’ve always needed to add that extra degree of sparkle and attack. And for most — if not all — it’s an essential education that changes them for the better forever. But woe betide the person who needs to move swiftly through that crowd, who always seem to be on the cusp of starting a full-blown mosh-pit next to the fences. How Napoleon ever lost the Battle of Waterloo is totally beyond us.

20-year-old Anna Lena Schaaf maintains her lead in the Six-Year-Old World Championship after a foot-perfect round with Lagona 4. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Course designer Pierre Michelet delivered, as always, two masterful tracks for today’s cross-country challenge, which ran in the opposite direction to last year. Le Lion certainly doesn’t aim to host the toughest, biggest, or most technical of CCI2*-L and CCI3*-L tracks, because their difficulty level is increased by the influence of the crowds, but what it does aim to do is educate. Appropriate technical combinations are followed by long galloping stretches, and hills and mounds are used creatively to teach balance and adjustability, which tends to result in plenty of clears and lots of rounds inside the time — and once again, that’s what we saw today. Our top five in the CCI2*-L Six-Year-Old Championship remains unchanged, and just three of the 45 starters failed to complete the course — two of those as a result of falls on the flat when their horses slipped coming down a hill back onto the racetrack at the tail end of the course. 35 of the 42 finishers delivered clear rounds, and 21 of those did so without adding time penalties, helped along by the excellent going on course.

One of the decisive rounds of the day was delivered by Germany’s Anna Lena Schaaf, who piloted her own Lagona 4 to a faultless and wholly fun-looking round. At just 20 years old, the Young Rider Reserve European Champion is making her mark on the senior circuit in fine style, and will go into tomorrow’s showjumping on her dressage score of 25.8.

“It’s still a really crazy feeling being in the lead in such a competition,” she says, beaming in the afterglow of her superb two-phase performance. “It was a great feeling riding the cross-country today, she was really focused and I had the feeling that she really enjoyed the crowd. I’m really excited for tomorrow; usually she’s a great showjumper, but we have to see, because it’s her first two-star long, so maybe she’s a little tired after the cross-country today!”

Tom Carlile’s Fair Lady des Broucks shows off her sire’s signature jumping style, which carries her safely home to remain in second place overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

She’s certain to feel the pressure from France’s Tom Carlile, who remains in second place on a score of 26.5 after delivering a faultless round with Fair Lady des Broucks, a daughter of his former top horse Upsilon. Though she might not have inherited the great grey’s physical attributes, she’s certainly got her daddy’s jump: she cruised around the course today throwing his signature bascule over each fence, giving a super performance for Upsilon’s debut as a Le Lion sire.

Nicolas Touzaint and the superb Fibonacci de Lessac HDC add nothing to their dressage score across the country. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cheered on by loud whistles (how do people whistle so loudly?!) and cheers of “allez, Nicolas, allez!”, Tom’s countryman Nicolas Touzaint remains in third place and will head into showjumping on his dressage score of 26.8 with Fibonacci de Lessac HDC. Like Fair Lady, Fibonacci represents the Selle Français studbook, who look strong in their hunt for the studbook prize this week.

Julia Krajewski and ChinTonic 3 hold onto fourth placing going into the final phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s Olympic darling Julia Krajewski coaxed confident clears out of both of her mounts in the six-year-old class, but it was ChinTonic 3 who really shone, remaining fourth overnight on 27.9. The Hanoverian gelding, who’s a full brother to Julia’s 2018 World Equestrian Games mount (and the Tokyo mount of Michael Jung), was one of the first horses out of the startbox this morning, and the pair gave a masterclass in cross-country production.

Izzy Taylor and SBH Big Wall round out the top five. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Izzy Taylor and the sweet-brained Irish Sport Horse SBH Big Wall remain in fifth place and best of the Brits in this class after a solid clear inside the time. They’d shared this spot with Ireland’s Sarah Ennis and Dourough Ferro Class Act after dressage, and while both pairs remain on a two-phase score of 28, Izzy edges the lead for being one second closer to the optimum time of 8:44.

Caroline Martin’s King’s Especiale makes the most of his natural length of stride while recording a clear round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Caroline Martin flew the flag for the USA in this class, piloting the lanky and talented King’s Especiale to a clear round, though their 6.4 time penalties pushed them from 20th to 30th place. For the Dutch Warmblood gelding, though, this experience is being used purely as an educational one en route to the upper levels, at which Caroline is confident he’ll be a consistent and competitive team horse for the US effort.

It might sound like this class was a bit of a staid affair, but there was enough drama to be getting on with: we saw two of our top ten slip out of contention throughout the course of the day, with tenth-placed Bill Levett and Shannondale Archie incurring elimination after a rider fall at 13B, a reasonably skinny paintbrush fence, and the Netherlands’ Merel Blom and Denim, seventh after dressage, picking up a 20 at 4B, an upright rail.

The top five at the end of the Six-Year-Old cross-country session.

Kevin McNab and Cute Girl head towards the course’s finale as an enthusiastic throng watches on. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As in the six-year-old class, the Seven-Year-Old leaderboard remains unchanged at the top — but only as far as the leading two places go. Australia’s Kevin McNab remains at the top of the pack with his laser-focused, huge-jumping little mare Cute Girl, whose redemption arc continues after an unfortunate technical elimination here last year. They added nothing to their dressage score of 26.9 to remain unassailable — and in this class, that was a much harder prospect. 50 of our 58 starters remain in the hunt, and 33 of those were able to deliver clears, while 12 combinations managed to do so without adding time penalties. So tightly packed were the scores after the first phase that this offered more of a chance for climbing the leaderboard, a trend we’ll see magnified in tomorrow’s final phase, which tends to be the most influential here.

But let’s go back to Cute Girl for a moment, because she certainly deserves her time in the spotlight — particularly after captivating the gathered masses with her tight-as-a-tick jumping style and her palpable, fierce desire to hunt out the flags.

“She gave me a really good round, but I was actually surprised I didn’t lose more time towards the end,” says Kevin. “So I came in a little bit faster than what I’d planned earlier, but she felt really solid and had matured a lot from last year. There weren’t the crowds last year that there were this year, but there was still an atmosphere, and they mature from that.”

Laura Collett’s Outback remains in second place going into the final phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Collett remains in second place with Trakehner gelding Outback, heading up a strong British effort that sees the Olympian and her countrymen make up eight of the top ten placings. A litmus test run in Aachen’s Ride and Drive competition, which Laura used as the deciding factor in whether the gelding was ready to come here, proved a savvy move; though the quirky gelding certainly took notice of the crowds, he was able to knuckle down and get to work, adding nothing to his dressage score of 27.2 along the way.

“He was quite scared of the crowds, but he stayed very honest and kept answering the questions. It’s an awful lot for them to come here; they don’t have very much experience with seeing so many people and the fences, although they’re beautiful and very well built, are spooky for them, so it’s an educational day,” says Laura.

Tomorrow will thrust the gelding — and his fellow competitors — back into the thrum of a serious atmosphere, but however he deals with it, Outback has already ticked all the right boxes for his rider.

“It’s always a big atmosphere, and tomorrow’s another day, so what will be will be; he’s already exceeded all our expectations this week, and fingers crossed he can do the same tomorrow, but so far he’s been fantastic,” she says.

Selina Milnes and Cooley Snapchat move into podium position after a foot-perfect round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Selina Milnes and Cooley Snapchat move into bronze medal position, taking the spot previously occupied by Hayden Hankey and Heads Up, who added 2 time penalties and moved to seventh place.

“He’s taken everything in his stride — he did a super test yesterday, and I was really pleased with how he took to it, but I thought today would be a really big challenge for him,” says Selina of the Irish Sport Horse son of Kannan. “He’s never seen crowds like this, and the two Intermediates he’s done have been quite straightforward, but I ran him at Cornbury, which was strong, and he won that. So I brought him here hoping he would take to it, and he just took everything in his stride — he pricked his ears, and although he was a bit spooky at the first, I gave him a shake-up and off he went.”

Sarah Bullimore’s Evita AP makes tidy work of the toad in front of a packed out crowd. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fellow Brit Sarah Bullimore climbs into fourth place with Evita AP, who will go into showjumping on a score of 27.9 — the same as fifth-placed Oliver Townend and his 2020 Six-Year-Old Reserve World Champion Cooley Rosalent, who produced a quicker round but finished further from the optimum time, giving them the short straw in the tiebreak.

Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent add another completely penalty-free cross-country run to the mare’s spotless record. Photo by Tilly Berendt. 

Cooley Rosalent, for her part, now has a remarkable seven consecutive FEI runs under her belt with no time or cross-country jumping penalties added in any of them, and while Oliver is likely still kicking himself for an expensive error of course in yesterday’s dressage, which pushed them out of the top spot on the leaderboard, she remains one of the firm favourites to deliver in the ring tomorrow, particularly with the experience she amassed here last year. Though the event was run behind closed doors, the atmosphere was barely diminished, and riders, connections, and media representatives were able to pack out the grandstand and provide a final-day education for competitors. That’s certainly an appealing advantage as we head into tomorrow, where the crowds will be the real deal once again.

Cole Horn and MBF Cooley Permission To Land climb 13 places. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Our two US competitors in this class delivered solid rounds with their impressive horses, both of whom are here to gain experience for the top levels. Holekamp/Turner Grant recipients Cole Horn and MBF Cooley Permission to Land climbed from 43rd after dressage to 30th, adding just 4.4 time penalties along the way but picking up a frustrating 15 flag penalties at fence 21, an angled brush near the end of the course.

Avery Klunick and Pisco Sour record a steady clear round to further the gelding’s education for the future. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Avery Klunick and her own Pisco Sour delivered a steady clear, adding 30.8 time penalties and climbing from 45th to 41st place overnight while Pisco pricked his ears and romanced the crowds all the way around.

Tomorrow morning takes us into the final horse inspection, followed swiftly by the showjumping finale for the Six-Year-Old World Championship from 11.00 a.m. local time/10.00 a.m. UK/5.00 a.m. Eastern. The Seven-Year-Old Championship will commence from 2.30 p.m. local time/1.30 p.m. UK/8.30 a.m. Eastern. We’ll be bringing you the full story and plenty of photos from throughout the day, so tune in tomorrow for the final showdown.

Until then: Go Eventing!

The top five after cross-country in the Seven-Year-Old championship.

Le Lion d’Angers: Website, Entries, Ride Times and Live Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage 

Day Two at Le Lion d’Angers: Cute by Name, Cute by Nature as Kevin McNab Takes Late Lead

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Kevin McNab’s Cute Girl begins her redemption arc. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This afternoon at Le Lion d’Angers, as the final session of dressage reached its climax, the Frenchest of French things happened.

“Zees ‘Cute Girl’ eez not zat cute,” sniffed a woman sitting on the cold concrete bleachers dismissively, as Australia’s Kevin McNab trotted into the arena on the thusly dubbed Holsteiner, who he rides for prolific owners Scuderia 1918. But neither Kevin nor his owners — nor, in fact, Cute Girl herself — should take it that seriously: one of life’s greatest sports is proving French women of a certain generation wholly wrong, and both rider and (yes, very cute) horse did just that, soaring straight to the top of the Seven-Year-Old leaderboard with their excellent score of 26.9.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the daughter of Coventry at Le Lion — “though I’d hoped you wouldn’t bring last year up,” laughs Kevin after his test. The mare made two-thirds of an excellent showing here last year, sitting fourth going into cross-country after delivering her then-personal best on her debut in the major atmosphere here. On cross-country, she was every bit as impressive — but an unfortunate technical elimination for a skipped fence meant that her competition ended there. It wasn’t, perhaps, a great week on paper, but the education she picked up over the course of the event have helped to shape her into the young professional she is now.

“She’s really improved, and she feels really settled and workmanlike now. She was great to ride in there; I came down [to warm up] a little late, but when I started I thought, ‘I’m still too early!’ She was really settled in, and she felt great and was really easy to ride in there,” says Kevin.

Kevin McNab and Cute Girl. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

That mental stability allowed Cute Girl to nail down a significant FEI personal best in what is her first-ever CCI3*-L, and though she might have been skating under the radar after last year’s error, she certainly looks set on her path to redemption this time around.

“It did take away from her last year, which was unfortunate because she didn’t deserve that,” says Kevin. “But I have to say, even though she didn’t showjump here last year, she’s come back a lot more mature and a lot easier to ride, so hopefully the rest of it stays this smooth!”

Kevin takes over the lead from Laura Collett and Outback, who now sit second on 27.2, followed by Hayden Hankey and Heads Up, who move from second to third on 27.4. Fourth place is the domain of yesterday’s third-placed Selina Milnes and Cooley Snapchat, who posted a 27.5 — and if you’d like to refresh your memory on any of these impressive (and yes, all British!) tests, head over to yesterday’s report for the full story.

Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent narrowly miss out on the Seven-Year-Old lead after a late error of course. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Another returning competitor made a very strong showing and in the process, contributed to an ultra-competitive British entry in this class. Oliver Townend‘s Cooley Rosalent finished second in the Six-Year-Old World Championship last year, but she actually began her week in fifth place — and today, she finds herself in exactly the same spot, holding equal dominion over fifth place with fellow Brits Sarah Bullimore and Evita AP on 27.9.

It’s certainly an excellent starting point, and throughout her FEI career, the exceptional Irish Sport Horse mare by Valent has proven almost preternaturally consistent, never picking up a single cross-country time or jumping penalty in any of her runs, and so a climb up the leaderboard feels almost inevitable. But that must be a bittersweet knowledge for Oliver, who thinks an enormous amount of the horse, and who was piloting her into a nearly guaranteed lead until he made an error of course at the very tail end of the test. While he was far from the only rider to preemptively ride his final centreline, he was certainly the one who paid the biggest price.

Tom Carlile’s Upsilon daughter Etoile de Beliard take their place in the top ten. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Tom Carlile returned to the arena with another daughter of his great stallion Upsilon today, and just as he had with the second-placed six-year-old Fair Lady des Broucks yesterday, he landed firmly within the top ten. This time, he was aboard Etoile de Beliard, who looks much more her grey father’s daughter, and who moved with a surprising deftness and balance for her considerable size to earn a 29.3, allowing her to take ninth place going into cross-country.

Anna Siemer and Lillybelle EA. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Rounding out the top ten — and taking the top spot as EN’s horse of the day — was Lillybelle EA, the exceptionally pretty Oldenburg mount of Germany’s Anna Siemer. She was the consummate showgirl in the ring, pointing her toes and arching her elegant neck en route to a 29.5, but behind that delicate exterior, Anna tells us, the daughter of Diarado has a seriously spicy side.

“She’s the beauty and the beast in one person,” she says with a grin, reminiscing over a recent hiccup in which the mare bucked off her groom, Ayleen Stuhr, in a prize-giving ceremony that she’d borrowed her for after winning the class with another horse.

“It was a rodeo style buck-off, not a little one — it was really unbelievable! So Ayleen comes off, and we’re both running after her, and finally we grab her and Ayleen just says, ‘you know, she’s a bitch!’,” she laughs. “She’s a pretty girl, but she’s the bloodiest beast we have in the whole stable. She’s not allowed to go out with another horse in the field, because she’d kill them, eat them, and spit them out. She’s like, ‘hi, here I am, I hate you!'”

Lillybelle’s disdain for other horses meant that Anna had her work cut out with her in warm-up rings in the mare’s first couple of seasons out eventing.

“It was kind of a problem because she was like, ‘eyes on me, please — what are you doing in here with me?!’ And she gets pissed when there are other horses in the warm-up making mistakes, like, ‘what are you even doing? If you can’t do this, get out!'”

This week, the feisty, talented mare is wholly in her element: as Anna’s sole entry here, she’s enjoying all the fuss and attention, and she got to travel down on her own in the lorry — a queenly luxury befitting her astronomical self-confidence. And though Anna is quick to make a fond joke about her mare, she, too, believes wholeheartedly in the horse.

“Anything could happen this week, but it’s all an adventure, and I love adventures,” she says. “Here we are, and I’m so lucky to be here. I’m glad I can ride her, and glad to have good owners — and it makes me really proud that they’re here.”

Avery Klunick and Pisco Sour lay down a solid test to start their week. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Our final US combination, Avery Klunick and her own Pisco Sour, delivered a sweet, solid test this afternoon to put a 36.8 on the board for 45th place. Though Avery had hoped to find herself higher up the leaderboard at this early stage, she was delighted with how the Irish Sport Horse gelding by Metropole handled the atmosphere in the arena, which is serving as a crucial part of his long-term education.

“I’m really happy with how he handled all of it,” she says. “It’s kind of hard because we’ve been here all week, and this is the first time I’ve done a long-format like this with him, so I’ve been thinking the whole time, ‘am I doing too much? Am I not doing enough?’ And then he came out today and just felt a bit like, ‘please, no more dressage!’ But he went in the ring and tried really hard, and he’s getting there. It’s a lot to do for a seven-year-old!”

Avery bought the gelding as a three-year-old from Ireland’s Monart Sale, and throughout his production, she’s had Le Lion in the back of her mind as a goal. But the pieces really started to fall into place as a result of the pandemic: though Avery is a well-seasoned rider and has competed at CCI5*, she actually works full-time in finance and just competes Pisco in her spare time. When COVID forced office-based workers to take their jobs home with them, she spotted a golden opportunity to balance her time extra-creatively, and began looking into basing herself in Europe to put the finishing touches on her gelding’s seven-year-old campaign.

“It’s really lucky,” she says. “I was in Aiken last winter getting lessons from Boyd Martin, who I worked for when I had my Kentucky horse, and I said to him, ‘hey, I’m kind of thinking that he might be able to go to France and do this — where should I go?’ And Boyd was like, ‘I’m calling Kevin McNab right now.'”

Avery had previously met Kevin and his wife, Emma, at Luhmühlen Horse Trials, where she’d groomed for Boyd purely by dint of being his only staff member with a passport at that time, and that familiarity meant that she immediately felt comfortable with her new family unit in the south of England, where she’s been based with the McNabs since June. She spends her mornings training and returns to her ‘desk job’ from 2pm until 1am, and although that slightly bonkers timetable takes commitment, she’s relishing every moment.

“It’s literally just been such a game-changer. I want to be as competitive as I can, and I’m also trying to enjoy it as much as I can — and I’m learning so much from them,” she says. “The horses get better, everyone gets better with the amount you go out to all these amazing competitions. I never want to go home — I love it!”

The top five in the Seven-Year-Old World Championship heading into tomorrow’s cross-country.

The top of the Six-Year-Old Championship remains largely intact, with 20-year-old German prodigy Anna Lena Schaaf maintaining her day one lead with her own Lagona 4 on their excellent score of 25.8. Second place, too, remains firmly in the grasp of France’s Tom Carlile and Fair Lady des Broucks, who posted a 26.5.

France’s Nicolas Touzaint and Fibonacci de Lessac HDC are the highest-placed new entrants in the Six-Year-Old Championship. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Third place, though, goes to a new entry, and it’s great news for the home nation and for the superb Selle Français studbook, which is enjoying a prolonged and well-deserved moment in the sun. Nicolas Touzaint and the elegant, typey Fibonacci de Lessac HDC, by Carinjho HDC and out of a Bright Silver mare, put up a strong fight in their hunt for the lead but ultimately missed out by a mere penalty, putting them into third place on a 26.8 as we look towards tomorrow’s cross-country. Behind them, Germany’s Julia Krajewski sits pretty in fourth place with ChinTonic 3, a full brother to the excellent Chipmunk FRH, on their Thursday mark of 27.9.

Ireland’s Sarah Ennis impresses with Dorough Ferro Class Act to move into equal fifth. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As in the seven-year-old class, there’s a two-way tie for fifth place in the six-year-old line-up, too. Ireland’s Sarah Ennis and the elegant Dorough Ferro Class Act laid down a polished, mature effort to earn themselves a 28, putting them on even keel with Great Britain’s Izzy Taylor and SBH Big Wall. For Sarah, this is a stepping stone en route to a pretty serious destination — and it’s a hugely gratifying one to tick off the list.

“He came into my yard on livery last February, and he was always for sale, so I got an owner to invest with me,” she says. “We bought him at Millstreet in August, and we’re really excited about him; our aim is the Paris Olympics, and while he’ll be a little young — he’ll only be nine — he’s so exciting. He’s gorgeous, and his personality’s gorgeous — he moves, he jumps, he’s brave, and you couldn’t ask for more. He’s much loved by us all.”

While he’s been a perfect gentleman to produce so far, Sarah’s felt that special something more in the Goresbridge Go For Gold graduate.

“There’s definitely a fire inside him, but he’s very good at actually controlling it. That can be really hard, especially at this age, so I’m really excited by this one,” she says.

Tomorrow sees our competitors dive into the main event, and it’s certainly always a special one here at Le Lion d’Angers: after running behind closed doors last year, the organising team is expecting to see the return of the usual enormous, enthusiastic crowds, and course designer Pierre Michelet has delivered another strikingly beautiful, fair, and sympathetic set of courses for our burgeoning young superstars to tackle. The six-year-olds will be first out of the box starting at 10.00 a.m. local time/9.00 a.m. UK/4.00 a.m. Eastern, while the seven-year-olds will follow along from 13.00 local/12.00 p.m. UK/7.00 a.m. Eastern. We’ll be taking a closer look at the artistic course they’ll be facing, so keep it locked on to EN to get to grips with the challenge ahead.

Until then: Go Eventing!

A largely untouched Six-Year-Old top five following the second day of dressage.

Le Lion d’Angers: Website, Entries, Ride Times and Live Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage 

Day One at Le Lion d’Angers: Unbeatable Brits and a German Wunderkind Reign Supreme

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Le Lion d’Angers is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

Clever babies get the biggest snuggles, as proven by Jack Pinkney’s Rehy Revelation, who happily receives a smooch from Jack’s girlfriend, Léa Boulesteix. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s something inimitably delightful about watching the dressage at Le Lion d’Angers, because it really strips everything back to basics: after all, these are young, very inexperienced horses, tackling a relatively basic test in an alien atmosphere. While that could get boring pretty quickly, such is the buzz of it all that it provides no end of entertainment; this isn’t dressage where you think, ‘will they nail the changes?’, because there aren’t any changes to nail — instead, it’s ‘will this six-year-old remember that it has legs, and will it use them for dancing or for exiting the arena at high speed?’ It’s also a great chance to find out just how scary an innocuous pot of flowers really is.

But through all the baby green moments, there are also bright spots of genuine excellence, and it’s enormously exciting to see a young horse for the first time and think, ‘I want to watch whatever this horse does for the rest of his career.’ There’s every chance that in that moment, you’re looking at the next Toledo de Kerser, or Avebury, or La Biosthetique Sam FBW — just a tiny fraction of the exceptional horses who learned their trade at this special event.

To understand the excitement and appeal of Le Lion d’Angers, it’s important to parse why a horse might come here — because although it’s the World Championship for six- and seven-year-olds, not every horse can, or should, tackle it. Le Lion offers the kind of atmosphere a horse won’t otherwise experience until they reach CCI5* or senior championship level; the crowds are enormous and vocal, and the roping on the cross-country course is tight and close to the fences — and for a green youngster, one of two things can happen when they meet this unique kind of pressure for the first time. They can rise to it, and embrace the encouragement, or they can suffer badly from stage fright — and a scare like that could take the length of a career to fix.

But if you find yourself on a qualified horse who’s bold and talented and loves an occasion, this truly does become the pinnacle, and it presents an unrivalled opportunity to train your young superstar to deal with the crowds he’ll meet again, hopefully, at an Olympics or a World Championships. Logging the mileage early can help to produce a consistent, confident competitor, and one who makes himself very attractive to selection committees.

That pathway, which we’ve seen so many top horses go down, is such a clear one that the organising committee here has even referenced it, not so subtly, by plonking a miniature Eiffel Tower in the arena. The horses we’re following this week will be nine and ten when the Paris Olympics rolls around — and so it’s not at all hard to imagine that we could see a few of them there.

They grow up so fast: wunderkind duo Anna Lena Schaaf and Lagona 4 wrap their leading test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Leading the way after day one of dressage in the Six-Year-Old World Championship, which runs at CCI2*-L, is a young combination as exciting as one another. 20-year-old Anna Lena Schaaf hasn’t even graduated from the Young Rider leagues yet — in fact, she took the individual silver and team gold in this summer’s Young Rider European Championships — but the rider has been proving through the season that she’s one of Germany’s next big things. Just a few days after making her CCI4*-S debut at Strzegom (which she duly won), the former Pony and Junior European Champion turns her attentions to a different kind of age championship. Riding Lagona 4, an Oldenburg mare by Lavagon and out of a Cartani 4 mare, she delivered an impressive 25.8 to take a unanimous lead from all three judges.

“I’m so happy with our performance — she was so cool, and that she’s done this as only a six-year-old is just amazing. She’s done really good dressage in the past, so this [score] was a little bit expected, but in this great arena, with something new every day, it was really great” says a delighted Anna Lena, who is based at Warendorf at the German Federation’s headquarters while she completes her training. But home isn’t too shabby, either: her grandparents are prolific sport horse breeders, and her grandmother was formerly the trainer of the German eventing team, so her foundations are strong and her string of horses — almost all of which have come from the family business — are of equally high quality. In fact, Lagona is unique in that she’s not the product of their breeding programme.

“This one’s my own — I bought her last year,” explains Anna Lena, who debuted the mare at Arville in May and brings her to Le Lion off the back of a double of wins in CCI2*-S sections at Jardy and Langenhagen.

Tom Carlile and Fair Lady des Broucks represent Upsilon on the world stage for the first time. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Tom Carlile has an extraordinary history at Le Lion d’Angers — and, indeed, with the production of young horses generally. We’ve seen the rider finish on his dressage score time and time again here, and his mounts tend to go on to great success at the top levels, whether with him or another rider in the irons. He’s also the only rider ever to do the double, winning both the Six- and Seven-Year-Old World Championship in the same year back in 2013. This year, though, already feels as though it could be his most poignant campaign yet, because his mounts in each class are sired by the great Upsilon, his 2017 European Championships mount and two-time Barbury winner whose career was so unfairly cut short by a form of encephalitis that had caused neurological damage.

“The first generation are the seven-year-olds, and it’s really exciting,” says Tom. “We’ve seen quite a few, in France especially because that’s where we have the most [offspring], getting incredible results in the young horse classes. Last year he got his first international winner with [seven-year-old entrant] Etoiles de Beliard, and this year he’s got his first horses at Le Lion now — and so hopefully, he can go on to have a five-star winner, like Chilli Morning did! There’s a lot more to come, I think.”

The first of these Upsilon offspring to tackle Le Lion is Fair Lady des Broucks, who sits second in the Six-Year-Old Championship on a score of 26.5 — despite some initial nervousness about the buzzy arena.

“She’s quite sensitive, and she got emotional coming in with the atmosphere, even though there’s only about fifteen people in the grandstand,” explains Tom with a laugh. “It was enough to make her go a bit tense, and the big screen didn’t help, but she tries her best. She always does try her best; at the moment, she just needs to mature and get over her emotions a bit.”

The pretty, typey mare won the French four-year-old championship in 2019, topping a podium made up entirely of Upsilon offspring, and earned her place at Le Lion this year by winning the six-year-old title at Pompadour — her only FEI start thus far. Every step of the way, she’s been doing her Anglo-Arab sire proud — and for spectators, it’s been a treat to watch Tom sympathetically pilot another exciting young horse in a manner appropriate to her level. Ultimately, though, she’s been bred to find this easy.

“She’s a very smart, flashy little horse — well, not little, she’s 16.3hh nearly, but she’s quite compact. She’s very consistent on the flat; she has nice paces and she goes into collection quite easily,” he says of the mare, who is out of a Chin Chin mare owned by Frédéric Deroi, though it was part-owner of Upsilon, Philippe Lacaze, who created the pairing between sire and dam.

Julia Krajewski’s Chintonic 3 looks set to follow in his big brother’s footsteps as he strides into the top five on day one of Le Lion. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Newly-minted Olympic gold medallist Julia Krajewski brought forward the first of her six-year-old two-hander in Chintonic 3, an impressive stamp of a Hanoverian who’s a full brother to Chipmunk FRH, who Julia produced to CCI4* and championship level before countryman Michael Jung took over the ride a couple of seasons ago. As the late-rising sun peeked through the grandstands, they danced their way to a tidy 27.9 and provisional third place — and the 2020 Bundeschampionate victor looked every inch his brother’s successor as he did so.

Izzy Taylor’s SBH Big Wall relaxes into the electric atmosphere of the main arena at Le Lion. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Great Britain’s Izzy Taylor sits fourth overnight after delivering a 28 with the delightfully named SBH Big Wall, whose moniker comes from his sire Puissance. The Irish Sport Horse gelding, who Izzy and owner Jane Timmis bought from Izzy’s partner, Oliver Townend, as a rising five-year-old, is exceptionally bred for the sport: his dam is by the stallion Courage II, whose offspring include Oliver’s Olympic ride Ballaghmor Class and Tim Price’s Burghley victor Ringwood Sky Boy. But while Courage II is renowned for throwing tricky talent, SBH Big Wall has been most notable within Izzy’s string for his workmanlike attitude and level, mature brain.

“It’s obviously a lot for any six-year-old to come here, but he coped very well — he’s a lovely personality,” says Izzy. “There’s not many you’d bring here, because mentally, they have to be very relaxed and strong in their brain in the right way, but he’s got a cool brain so he was allowed to come.”

Just a minor mistake precluded an even lower score for the gelding, whose FEI personal best is a 23.4 earned in Burgham’s CCI2*-S in July.

“He got a bit overexcited in the rein-back and thought he wanted to stay in it forever, which was annoying,” laughs Izzy. “But apart from that he was a really good boy, and he’s starting to learn how to show off a bit, which is good, because he’s not one of the flash foreign-bred types that you get over here. He’s very Irish-bred, which is why I bought him — it’s what we like for the long-term plans.”

Merel Blom and Denim lead the Dutch effort at Le Lion. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Netherlands’ Merel Blom rounds out the first-day top five with the Holsteiner gelding Denim, by Dinken and out of an Ibisco mare, who earned a 28.5 with his fluid, sweet test. Though this is just his sixth FEI start, he’s already proven consistent in this phase, and Merel was delighted — though not surprised — to find him sitting right on the money where scoring is concerned, despite much more of an atmosphere than any of his previous runs would have offered.

“He’s already had 27, but it’s not like this is totally out of line with the rest of the season,” she says. “You can feel that the horses are surprised by the whole surroundings and the atmosphere, so it’s a really good way to see if they can cope with it. And the youngsters always do something unexpected in these areas, but he went really well, actually.”

Merel has produced the gelding from a four-year-old, when he arrived in her stable almost by chance.

“It was a bit unexpected — I bought him by luck,” she says. “I said to someone, ‘if you can find this kind of horse for this price, I’ll buy it’ — and she called me and said, ‘I’ve got it!’ And so I hadn’t actually seen him in real life, and when he arrived at my stable, he was a bit smaller, a bit petite, but now he’s grown up and become quite a big boy. He’s the perfect size, and he’s a really cool horse, so it’s a pleasure to ride him.”

Caroline Martin gives King’s Especiale an educational ride. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The sole US representatives in this class, Caroline Martin and King’s Especiale sit tenth overnight on a score of 33.4 — and though Caroline is thinking ahead to sub-30 tests to come in the future, she was pleased with how the leggy Dutch Warmblood gelding coped with the pressure of the day.

“I was a little disappointed, because maybe we should have gone in there and been a little bit more flash, but it’s a lot of atmosphere for the babies,” she says. “I thought it would be better to put in a really steady test and not risk so much of the flash.”

The son of Connect stepped up to the plate to produce a mistake-free, workmanlike test that showed hints of what’s to come — and his early competitive position is a gratifying moment for his extensive connections, who’ve been rooting for him from his earliest competitions.

“He’s so sweet and genuine. When he came over, Lee [Maher] and Casey [McKissock] were like, ‘you’ve got to keep him!’ So it was really a group decision that we kept him. I rang the owner — my boss, Paul Hendrix — and said, ‘what do you think?’ and then we got a team of people and we all own him together.”

Caroline’s aim is to use Le Lion as a stepping stone en route to senior championships, for which she firmly believes he’s the perfect horse.

“We think the world of him, and when he won the five-year-old championship in America, we thought it would be good for him to start getting international experience and getting used to it,” she explains. “It’s so different when you come over here, because you don’t ride them for a couple of weeks, and they’ve got to change climate and get used to it, and deal with the atmosphere. We all think he’s going to be a team horse, so we want him to get the correct experience now so when he’s an eight- or nine-year-old he’s ready.”

The top five in the Six-Year-Old World Championship following the first day of dressage.

There was a British whitewash at the top of the Seven-Year-Old leaderboard today, though the studbooks represented are considerably more diverse. Top of the pack is Olympic team gold medallist Laura Collett, who piloted the Trakehner gelding Outback to a 27.2 — even with a spook that saw him break to canter in his lateral work.

“He was just spooky at certain parts — some of the flowers, for example, and at A, I think he saw the [arena crew] when he first went in and thought, ‘why are those people holding a rope?! Are they going to beat me?!’,” laughs Laura. “So every time he went past there, he was looking for the people — but he was very good to stay with me. It’s a shame about the one blip in the half-pass, but I was really pleased with how he copes, because he hasn’t ever done a test in an atmosphere, really.”

Laura Collett’s Outback takes his first steps towards adulthood in the Le Lion ring. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura, who competed as part of the British team at Aachen last month, was able to bring the Duke of Hearts gelding along for the trip — and his entry in the novelty Ride and Drive class, which takes place in front of a packed stadium under the lights, was a litmus test that served as a pivotal stepping stone on the road to Le Lion.

“Aachen was kind of a decider of whether he came here or not,” she explains. “I wanted to see if he could cope with the crowds, and I thought, ‘if he copes with that, he can come here.’ It really surprised me how good he was; it was almost that the bigger the occasion, the better he was.”

Laura Collett and Outback. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

That was diametrically opposed to the way the outing could have gone for the gelding, who is still learning to cope with the demons he spots at unpredictable intervals in his work.

“He’s a funny character. I’ve had him since he was three, so I know him inside and out — and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Laura says, “Certain things spook him, and you never know what it’ll be, because it’s never the obvious thing — it’ll be, like, a random flower pot. He’s a little bit quirky and a bit strange, but he’s very, very talented, so we just try to manage his brain.”

Hayden Hankey impresses with Heads Up, one of six OBOS Quality offspring in this class. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hayden Hankey sits second going into day two after delivering a 27.4 with the Irish Sport Horse gelding Heads Up, who worked with a balance and expression beyond his years, despite being one of the lankiest horses in today’s line-up. He makes his Le Lion debut after finishing in the top ten in six consecutive FEI runs — and his maturity is even more impressive when you consider that he only made his two-star debut at the tail end of last season, focusing his talents on the working hunter ring prior to that. In his five-year-old year, he won the Working Hunter class at the Horse of the Year Show, making him one of the few horses at Le Lion with some experience of a major atmosphere. But every step of the way, he’s proven to be an old soul who takes everything in his stride.

“I bought him as a four-year-old from Ireland; my plan was to put a handful of top-class horses together, and he was one of them,” says Hayden, who owns him with Catherine Witt, best known for her long and fruitful partnership with William Fox-Pitt. “He’d be an asset to any yard in the country — he’s so quiet and sensible. Sometimes the fact that he’s so horizontal can make it harder for me, because it can look like I’m getting at him, so we need to get to that point in our training.”

Hayden opted not to participate in arena familiarisation, because Heads Up is such a naturally laid-back horse that he wanted to be able to use the extra sparkle that performing in a new environment would offer — and that paid off, adding extra elevation and responsiveness to the gelding’s big paces.

“He’s definitely a horse for the future, and one that’ll get better as he get’s stronger,” says Hayden. “For a horse of that size with that amount of movement, it can almost make it harder for you. He’s a very good horse; he’s very reliable and he has a lot of good qualities, but it’s a little bit about not making mistakes in the arena — it’s not just about having the biggest, flashest trot. If it was, he’d probably win, hands down!”

Sarah Bullimore and Evita AP shine. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Selina Milnes sits third on a score of 27.5 with the Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Snapchat (Kannan x VDL Arkansas), who proved professional and workmanlike despite inclement weather: “I was just so pleased with his brain,” says Selina, “because I thought, ‘oh god, he’s going to turn his arse to the rain!’ He’s actually really laid-back, but he’s funny — Gemma [Tattersall] saw him this morning and she said, ‘that looks feisty!’ He was trotting around nicely and suddenly saw something and had a tantrum — but he’d never hold a grudge. He just gets over it and gets on with it.”

Just behind her, Sarah Bullimore holds fourth place on 27.9 with Evita AP, a striking Oldenburg mare who she owns with husband Brett. Though much of the mare’s season has been devoted to qualifying her for the event after a couple of little mishaps along the way, Sarah wasn’t initially totally sold on the idea of buying her when Brett found her at Brightwell Sales as a three-year-old — but some good omens proved prescient.

“She’s by Con Air, who’s the sire of [5* stablemate] Conpierre — but she was a three year old and in foal, and she had a fat leg,” remembers Sarah. “I thought she was too heavy to make a good event horse, but the foal was by Balou du Rouet [the sire of Europeans mount Corouet and 5* stalwart Reve du Rouet].”

Aware that no one would bid on a pregnant three-year-old with a fat leg, she and Brett decided to make a bid, and as Evita has grown into herself, she’s become more and more of a modern event stamp. Though they ultimately sold the foal as a showjumping prospect, Sarah, who bred her European bronze medalist Corouet, hopes to take some embryos from the mare — particularly if she continues producing performances like today’s.

“She’s such a trier. She can be a little bit impetuous sometimes — she’s a girl, you know — but she always wants to do the right thing. The balance is still a work in progress, but if you say, ‘come on, you’ve got to do this,’ she says, ‘oh, okay then!’ and tries her little heart out.”

Josephine Schnaufer-Völkel and Cinnamon Red round out the top five. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s Josephine Schnaufer-Völkel made the only non-British appearance in the top five, taking provisional fifth place with the smart Westphalian gelding Cinnamon Red (Cascadello x Cordino 5), who scored a 28.5 after delivering an expressive, tidy test.  

Cole Horn steps up for team USA with MBF Cooley Permission To Land. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

23-year-old Cole Horn sits just outside the top twenty after posting a 36.4 with the Irish Sport Horse gelding MBF Cooley Permission To Land (Cobra x Luidam) in his first call-up for the US squad. Impressively, this is just Cole’s 13th FEI start; the former working student for Australia’s Ryan Wood previously learned the ropes in the 2015 and 2016 seasons with Spy Catcher, and produced youngster Cooley Sligo through 2018, but has been off the FEI radar throughout most of 2019 and all of 2020. This year, he debuted his leggy Le Lion mount, campaigning him in three FEI events and finishing in the top twenty in all of them — including a win in the gelding’s first CCI3*-S at River Glen.

Now, Cole hopes to produce his exciting gelding for the big leagues — and today provided an excellent learning opportunity for both horse and rider on their way to that goal.

“He’s always been such a cool, well-minded horse to produce along the way,” says Cole, who bought the oversized gelding as a three-year-old. “We’ve always thought that maybe we could do something like this with him, and I think there’s a lot left in there. I’m excited to see what eight, nine, and ten look like when he muscles out, and I think there’s a better test in there down the line. I rode the horse that he is today, but he definitely has all the right pieces.”

Cole and MBF Cooley Permission To Land travelled to France as recipients of the Turner/Holekamp Grant, which awarded them flights and $8,000 to make this formative trip work — and already, the gelding is repaying the debt by embracing, rather than shying from, the challenges presented to him.

“He couldn’t care less about the crowds,” says Cole with a grin, “and he’s ready to go tear it up on cross-country!”

Before we can get to that point, though, we’ve got one more jam-packed day of dressage to come — so keep it locked on to EN as we dive into the movers, the shakers, and the best of what the sport horse studbooks have to offer. Until next time: Go Eventing.

Britain — though not British breeding — dominates the Seven-Year-Old World Championship at the end of day one.

Le Lion d’Angers: Website, Entries, Ride Times and Live Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage 

Le Lion d’Angers Gets Underway with Spate of Holds and One Withdrawal at First Inspection

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Le Lion d’Angers is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

Cole Horn and MBF Cooley Permission To Land. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And just like that, the European season is nearly over. The FEI World Breeding Championships for Young Horses — better known as the Six- and Seven-Year-Old World Championships, set in the sweet little town of Le Lion d’Angers in France, is so emblematic of the closing of another chapter: its mid-October dates offer up the north of Europe’s last vestiges of sunlight (if you’re very lucky) and you can practically see the leaves turning as each phase unfolds. We all know that before too long, we’ll need to say our goodbyes until next season, and this year, having finally regained some sense of life on the other side of a pandemic, it’ll be particularly bittersweet to walk away from it all for the long winter months.

Caroline Powell and CBI Aldo tackle the Six-Year-Old World Championship — after a bit of excitement at the start. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But who has time to worry about what’s yet to come, when there’s a world championship to focus on — two, in fact? Le Lion got underway today with its first horse inspections at the stables, and already, we’ve seen plenty of drama. Four horses were sent to the holding box in the six-year-old class, which will run at CCI2*-L and which was presided over by the ground jury of Nikki Herbert (GBR), Xavier Le Sauce (FRA), and Nice Attolico Guglielmi (ITA). Three of those held — Ireland’s Patrick Whelan and Altitu, New Zealand’s Caroline Powell and CBI Aldo, and the US’s Caroline Martin and King’s Especiale — would go on to be accepted upon representation, but Spain’s Alvaro Blanco-Traba Centener opted to withdraw Kiekeboe W from the holding box, bringing the Six-Year-Old World Championship down to 45 starters representing 21 nations.

Noémi Viola Doerfer and Crystal Barney. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Seven-Year-Old CCI3*-L was no less exciting, even under the auspices of a different ground jury. Led by president James Rooney (IRE) and helmed by Katarzyna Konarska (POL) and Emmanuelle Olier (FRA), the second ground jury of the day witnessed chaos and interpreted it as inspiration when watching the first session. Three horses were sent to the holding box — Hebertina, the mount of Russia’s Olesya Kosareva, sole Hungarian representative Crystal Barney, presented by Noémi Viola Doerfer, and Black Pearl Z, piloted by France’s Julie Bordenave — while two further competitors were asked to trot their horses again immediately after initially presenting, though neither Sanne de Jong of the Netherlands and her frisky Le Lion sophomore Jarelly MBF, nor Ireland’s Joanne Corish and Lates Caralier were ultimately sent to the hold box, and the three held horses were accepted into the competition, too. But like the six-year-old class before it, this field is down by one, too: Australia’s Kevin McNab opted not to present one of his entrants, Glenorchy, who contested the Six-Year-Old World Championship last year with Isabel English. Now, the field is 58 strong, and sees 17 nations represented.

Oliver Townend looks to go one better with the exceptional Cooley Rosalent. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There are plenty of exciting youngsters to support through the week, and we’ll be bringing you plenty of their stories as the competition unfolds — but if you’re looking for early tips on potential winners, it’s hard to look much further than Oliver Townend‘s exceptional seven-year-old Cooley Rosalent, who finished in second place in the Six-Year-Old World Championship last year and has continued to go from strength to strength in the season since. In fact, all three of Great Britain’s Olympic gold medallists come forward with exceptional entries: Tom McEwen led going into the final phase with MGH Brown Jack last year, who returns a year older and wiser, while Laura Collett‘s Outback got a super education in dealing with crowds when he took part in Aachen’s fast-paced Ride and Drive class last month. We also see a very, very strong return entry from Ireland, as Cathal Daniels and LEB Empress, fifth in last year’s CCI2*-L, come back for round two. Germany’s Felix Etzel and Promising Pete TSF return after a seventh-place finish last year, and Australia’s Kevin McNab and Cute Girl look set to make some positive moves — they were in a very competitive position last year, when their week was unfortunately cut short by a technical elimination for missing a fence. And, of course, we can never disregard the king of Le Lion, France’s Tom Carlile: his Etoile de Beliard didn’t compete here last year, but does bring a seriously strong record to the table, with three wins out of six FEI runs and nothing below tenth place on her record.

Avery Klunick goes full French with a beret for the trot-up — and a great girl squad in Mackenna Shea and Isabel English. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Also very worth keeping an eye on are our three US competitors: fresh off the back of competing 12 (!) horses across all the classes at the Maryland 5 Star, a remarkably fresh-faced Caroline Martin brings six-year-old King’s Especiale, winner of the 2020 USEA Young Event Horse Championship for five-year-olds, to tackle his biggest challenge yet, while Avery Klunick and Pisco Sour join Cole Horn and MBF Cooley Permission To Land in the seven-year-old class.

Caroline Martin and King’s Especiale. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It all kicks off tomorrow with the first day of dressage, and we’ll see the six-year-olds take centre stage first from 9.00 a.m. local time (8.00 a.m. British/3.00 a.m. Eastern) and the seven-year-olds following from 1.00 p.m. local/12.00 p.m. British/7.00 a.m. Eastern. Here’s when you can catch Caroline, Cole, and Avery:

THURSDAY:

  • Caroline Martin and King’s Especiale: 10.06 a.m. local/9.06 a.m. UK/4.06 a.m. Eastern
  • Cole Horn and MBF Cooley Permission To Land: 4.08 p.m. local/3.08 p.m. UK/10.08 a.m. Eastern

FRIDAY:

  • Avery Klunick and Pisco Sour: 2.03 p.m. local/1.03 p.m. UK/8.03 a.m. Eastern

As always, we’ll be bringing you wall-to-wall coverage as we dive headlong into finding the next generation of superstars — and the cheapest red wine that’s still safe to drink. Bonne chance to all, but mostly to ourselves.

Le Lion d’Angers: Website, Entries, Ride Times and Live Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage 

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

A massive thanks to everyone who helped put the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill on the map, including its amazing army of volunteers!

U.S. Weekend Action:

Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill: [Website] [EN’s Coverage] [Daily Digest Email Sign-up] [EN’s Twitter] [EN’s Instagram]

Ocala Fall H.T. (Ocala, Fl.): [Website] [Results]

Pine Hill Fall H.T. (Bellville, Tx.): [Website] [Results]

UK Weekend Action:

Bovington (2): [Results]

Broadway (2): [Results]

Oasby (2): [Results]

Global Eventing Round-up:

In between Boekelo and Le Lion d’Angers, I’ve been travelling around the north of Europe with a rider pal to try to hunt out a young star of the future, and with such specific days available to us, I feel I can confidently tell you — with a deep sigh — that everyone in sodding Europe was at Poland’s Strzegom October International, or in Sweden with their youngsters. But that certainly made for some super competition, particularly at Strzegom, where Britain’s Libby Seed took her first-ever CCI4*-L victory at just 23, riding Heartbreaker Star Quality to a four place climb through the weekend.

Your Monday Reading List:

One of my favourite things about five-stars is that, no matter which angle you’re looking at them from, you’ll find such an extraordinary variety of stories and heroic accomplishments. For example, podium finisher Tim Price managed to set a pretty cool record at Maryland over the weekend — and it might take a while for anyone to catch him on this one!

There’s nothing that lights my fire more robustly than a bit of eventing history, which means I continue to patiently wait for Jimmy Wofford to become my pen pal. In the meantime, I’m diving into this excerpt on the sport’s early “influencers” and daydreaming about the day when I’ll show him my notes on Czechoslovakia’s 19,000 penalties at the 1936 Olympics.

Researchers have been studying the many ways equids are crucial to helping communities after disaster strikes. From transporting essential supplies to providing a means of transportation, they can even help to restore fractured economies — so keep a donkey in your first aid kit, folks.

And finally, from Maryland to sunny France, we’re diving into the Young Horse World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers this week — so get up to speed with the entries and pour yourself a glass of Bordeaux, because it’s going to be a great one!

Morning Viewing:

 

EN’s Very Unofficially Official Golden Chinch Jog Awards, Presented by Fairfax & Favor

EN’s coverage of the Maryland 5 Star is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products. KPP is our go-to for all things nutritional when it comes to supporting our horses and their healthier selves. Managing horses is a challenge, but KPP makes it simple — and they treat you like a horse owner, not just a customer. You can learn more about KPP by clicking here.

As your loyal British and European correspondent at EN, I feel like I’ve truly found myself ahead of the fashion curve for once in my wildly untrendy little life. I’m talking, of course, about the burgeoning crazy Stateside for a certain boot company that’s become such a pervasive part of trot-up culture that I can practically hear the American riders whispering their apologies for that unpleasant incident with the tea in the harbour every time I cast my beady eye over a jog strip. We got them first, darlings, but we’ll graciously allow you to take inspiration from how wildly, ludicrously attractive we Brits are. It’s fine.

This month, our long flirtation with Fairfax and Favor finally went official, and we’re delighted to welcome this brilliant British start-up (which has now well and truly taken over the world of equestrian fashion) to our stable of supporters. Our first united mission? To hand out the awards that the ground jury skipped over at the Maryland 5 Star first horse inspection – and then to hand the voting over to you, dear reader, to pick your favourite of our selection. The overall winner will walk away with a pair of Fairfax & Favor Regina boots (or, if we have a winner who prefers men’s footwear, we’ll accommodate that too!) — not too shabby a prize-pot to claim before this history-making event has even truly begun!

So sit back, get comfortable, and let’s dissect these trot-up outfits like we’re the second coming of Joan Collins on the stairs of the Met Gala. We might just give the mani-cam a miss for this one, though.

The Fairfax & Favor Golden Chinch for the Rider Most Likely to Get Into Harvard Law School

Valerie Pride and Favian. Photo by Abby Powell.

“What, like it’s hard?” Pairing a sugary sweet pink roll-neck with a cozy cashmere – and some killer knee-high block-heeled boots – feels very goodbye-sorority-hello-Ivy-League, and we’d like to be the first to volunteer for a cross-examination, either by the dressage-judge-and-rider herself or Favian, who’s a Gemini vegetarian and an all-around top babe. By showing a bit of leg but keeping the neckline high, Valerie ensures she doesn’t look like a tort. Ahthankyouverymuch.

The Fairfax & Favor Golden Chinch for the Rider Most Likely to Star in a Hallmark Horse Film

Emma Lomangino and Master Frisky. Photo by Abby Powell.

The second I laid eyes on CCI5* first-timers Emma Lomangino and Master Frisky, I felt a surge of something innocent and wonderful that my jaded little heart hasn’t encountered since long before the first time I lost control of my outfit at a Boekelo Tuesday party. I’d safely wager that most of us grew up rewatching International Velvet and Sylvester on VHS until they disintegrated, but Emma brings forward a jolly good vibe that feels a little more My Friend Flicka. Here’s how I imagine mornings in the Lomangino household went when Emma was but a wee lass:

Papa Lomangino, setting his coffee down with a heavy sigh: “Breakfast’s ready and that girl’s not here. Again.”

Mama Lomangino, gazing wistfully out of the kitchen window: “She’s been so distant recently. And since that new mare arrived…”

Papa Lomangino, slamming down the coffee mug that he’d only just picked back up: “…I don’t want to hear another word about that god-damn new mare! It’s wild, and it’s going to the auction, and no daughter of mine is going to get smashed up trying to do anything else with it.”

Mama Lomangino, turning to Papa Lomangino with a single tear threatening to leak from her eye: “But don’t you think that having something to focus on could help her? Maybe this is what she needs!”

[The scene swaps to outside, and a small, dusty corral in which a wild-looking horse is gallivanting around the perimeter while Emma Lomangino, dirty but determined, glares at her from a heap on the floor.

Emma Lomangino: “You’re just as broken as I am, girl. You might not see it now, but I’ll show you — and then we’ll show everyone.”

The Fairfax & Favor Golden Chinch for the Rider You’d Least Like to Bump Into Whilst Hungover

Harry Meade and Superstition. Photo by Abby Powell.

Harry Meade is a lovely chap, don’t get me wrong — he and his wife, Rosie, are among my favourite people to see at events, because they’re ineffably positive and always have time for a good natter. But Harry really ought to reconsider what he’s wearing on Sunday morning, particularly if his fellow riders decide to have a jolly little knees-up after a gruelling cross-country day. Imagine seeing this first thing in the morning, while you’ve still got sleep in your eyes and your dim, regrettable memories of the night before are starting to appear in sharp, nauseating focus? Neon green and latent quease is a terrible combination, and I hope for everyone’s sake that he opts for his trusty periwinkle pair for the final inspection.

The Fairfax & Favor Golden Chinch for Nailing a Reference, Even if it’s the Wrong Reference

Will Coleman and Tight Lines. Photo by Abby Powell.

Whenever I see an event rider in a flatcap (which is often, for what it’s worth), I have to assume they’re leaning into the Tommy Shelby ‘by order of the Peaky Blinders’ sort of vibe. And I can kind of see that, I guess, but the vibe I really get from Will Coleman and his behatted compatriots is a bit more niche. About a decade ago, the British tabloids would run stories about the ‘riff-raff’ that Zara Tindall competed against on the eventing circuit, including, notably, ‘son of a milkman’ Oliver Townend. Will Coleman, to my eye, is cosplaying as that mysterious Yorkshire milkman. I like to imagine he delivers glass bottles by horse-and-cart, doffing his cap at the ladies and asking, ‘is that a skim or a whole milk for you today, love?’ in an almost incomprehensible oop north accent.

The Fairfax & Favor ‘Redneck Wedding’ Golden Chinch

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore. Photo by Abby Powell.

Though I’m safely tucked away just south of London these days, I spent my teenage years living in rural coastal Maine, where there’s not an awful lot going on except for blueberry harvests, early morning outings on lobster boats…and redneck men who have been invited to formal events and need to find a way to compromise so they feel comfortable. Walk into any wedding — or prom, mind you — in rural Maine and you’ll find an array of women in nice dresses and a hodgepodge of different outfits from the menfolk: suits for the very brave boys, camouflage zip-off cargo pants and a stained Red Sox t-shirt for those who really fear the ill effects of fashun. Somewhere in between is this, as demonstrated by Phillip Dutton: a chino that could pass for a favourite pair of jeans (a jean-o? Just an idea), a sport coat and tie for good measure, and a baseball cap to calm the hyperventilation that I imagine started just at the point that Phillip had to tuck his shirt into his waistband. It’ll be alright, buddy — they’ll play ‘Friends in Low Places’ soon.

The Fairfax & Favor Golden Chinch For the Most Assertive Shoulders

Meghan O’Donoghue and Palm Crescent. Photo by Abby Powell.

I admire any woman who can wear and pull off a statement shoulder, as Meghan O’Donoghue did while presenting the delicious Palm Crescent for inspection. I myself have the shoulders of a linebacker and the hips of a whippet, which isn’t a great combination at the best of times but is truly beyond the pale when adorned with anything even remotely resembling a puff sleeve. (If I try to add a messy bun, too, all bets truly are off and I just become a flirty Miss Trunchbull, which never helped anyone pin down a rich and elderly husband, insofar as I’m aware.) Anyway, enough about me, let’s talk about Meghan, and her bold choice to stride down the jog strip wearing the outfit you’d don to your work’s end-of-quarter drinks party if you knew that Paul from accounts, who you really, really fancy, would be there. This is an outfit that says ‘I can balance a chequebook but I can also balance a shot glass of tequila on my head without spilling.’  I look at this and I’m reminded of my high school’s secretary, who I’m certain stashed a bottle of neat vodka under her desk and was trolleyed by the time the first bell went at 8:02 a.m. It is, as a result, an outfit I am extremely into. You go, Meghan O’Donoghue.

The Fairfax & Favor Golden Chinch for Dragon Domestication

We always love Hawley’s hair. Photo by Abby Powell.

Once upon a time, a certain Irish statistician and I passed a jolly hour in the Badminton media centre by re-casting Game of Thrones with people from the wider eventing community. That off-season, I entertained myself by putting together the visuals to match. I’m kicking myself now for never thinking of Hawley Bennett-Awad, who strode down the strip looking like a haute couture Daenarys Targaryen, except without the familial dalliance. Perhaps this off-season I’ll photoshop her emerging from the ashes of a fire with a teeny-weeny, ferocious little Jollybo on her shoulder. In the meantime, here’s Tim Price as a Dothraki. He assures me he does actually have those tattoos.

You’re…welcome.

The Fairfax & Favor Golden Chinch for the Rider Most Likely to Wheel in a TV and VCR

Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights. Photo by Abby Powell.

I’m getting a strong substitute teacher vibe from Colleen Rutledge, whose jacket masquerades as a natty little waistcoat at first glance. But Colleen’s the substitute teacher you cross your fingers and hope for: she’s not remotely interested in the boring work of pop quizzes and marking assignments. Instead, she’s brought in her trusty pal, the classroom television, and she’s going to stick Gattaca on because you’ve been learning about DNA and that’s, like, sort of related, whatever. Just shut up and watch the movie, because she’s really here for one thing and one thing only: she collects staffroom gossip like it’s her actual job.

The Fairfax & Favor Golden Chinch for the Rider Most Likely to Survive the Nuclear Apocalypse, and Whatever Comes After It

Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois. Photo by Abby Powell.

When I look at Jennie Brannigan on the jog strip, I don’t see the stunning visage of Stella Artois next to her. Instead, I see Tom Hardy in a souped-up truck, a bit of crusty blood on his cheek and one finger poised and ready to start the flamethrowers up.

“You getting in?” he gruffly asks his copilot, who has a machine gun under each arm but hasn’t even broken a sweat while being chased down by a lorryload of homicidal guitarists. She raises an eyebrow, looks him up and down, and then jumps into the cab, relegating him to the passenger seat so she can get the job done properly.

Someone texted me the other day to ask me if there’s a technical term for the strip of dirt on which the trot-up takes place. Now I realise that it’s actually called the Fury Road.

The Inaugural “Is That Eine Brezel in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?” Fairfax & Favor Golden Chinch 

Will Faudree and Pfun. Photo by Abby Powell.

Ah! Das ist gut, Will Faudree. Will, who travelled with the US team to pre-export quarantine in Aachen, wasted no time in Germany and can now be found practicing his yodelling in the Bavarian Alps whenever he’s not at an event, Arsch treten und Namen nehmen. Fun fact: did you know that it’s not actually possible to wash lederhosen? Thank god it’s an overcast October in Maryland — and if you see Will donning this attire down south this winter, just smile and wave from afar.

So, now it’s your turn dear readers! It’s an important vote you’re casting, to determine our winner, so think carefully and vote by Friday, October 14 at 5 p.m. EST! PS: We wouldn’t want to leave you out of the equation, so we’re also giving away a pair of Regina boots to a reader who enters our Instagram trot-up challenge! Click here to visit our Instagram page and watch our Maryland story highlight — all you need to do is “trot up” your horse, dog, cat, pig — whatever — on your own story!

Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill: Website, Digital Program, Tickets, ScheduleEntries, Volunteer, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage, Daily Digest Email Sign-up, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Sophie Leube Seals the Deal at Boekelo; USA Smells Like Team Spirit

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Boekelo is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

Sophie Leube takes a well-deserved victory in her second-ever CCI4*-L. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Some things, and some wins, just feel meant to be — and that’s certainly the case for Germany’s Sophie Leube, who produced three foot-perfect phases to lead Boekelo CCIO4*-L from pillar to post this week with Jadore Moi in just their second-ever start at the level. For the last year or so, Sophie has excelled herself on the world stage, taking the win in the Seven-Year-Old World Championship last year with the stallion Sweetwater Ziethen and taking a decisive dressage lead at CHIO Aachen last month with Jadore Moi, an eleven-year-old German Sporthorse by Conthargos. But although such significant leaps into the spotlight can feel like sudden and remarkable trajectories, for Sophie, the newfound recognition has come as the result of an awful lot of hard work — and more than a little bit of love for the horse with whom she’s risen through the levels.

Sophie Leube and Jadore Moi. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But first of all, let’s talk about today. Boekelo is known for producing a tough final phase, helped along by the incomparable atmosphere and the fact that the surfaced arena — a relatively new addition to the venue — allows the team to ask trickier questions of horses and riders than they might be able to on grass, where the slip factor could quickly become an issue. And so everyone flocked to the ringside for this morning’s first session, which saw the first 18 of 43 competitors come forward to jump. What they witnessed can’t have filled anyone with bucketloads of confidence: just three of those 18 produced clear rounds, and none of those three managed to catch the tight time. The top twenty-five knew they’d need to find inside lines and take some risks in order to attempt to produce a completely penalty-free round — and with a rail covering the top nine, there wasn’t any wiggle room to allow for anything less.

Perhaps, if you’d looked at numbers alone, you wouldn’t have put Sophie and Jadore Moi up as your eventual winners — after all, they average a rail at four-star, and riding under this amount of pressure is still a reasonably new experience for Sophie. But in their only previous CCI4*-L, at Italy’s Pratoni del Vivaro in November, where they finished third — they jumped a clear round, and Sophie had produced the goods so competently when winning the Seven-Year-Old title, too. In every way, Jadore Moi has stepped up a notch this year, swapping her former circa-30 scores for mid-25s, and shaving down the seconds across the country to the point where she added nothing yesterday. That trend continued on today, and the pair left their two rails at Aachen firmly behind them to attack the track in fine style, adding a further 0.4 time and securing themselves the biggest win of their career together.

Sophie reacts in delight after clearing the final fence. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

…and heaps praise and gratitude on her super mare Jadore Moi. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It will take a while until I will realise everything,” says Sophie, beaming at the mare she owns in conjunction with a four-woman syndicate. She originally took the ride on the mare as a five-year-old for breeder and then-owner Victoire von Schoen, who wanted Jadore Moi to contest the German Bundeschampionate for young horses. Though Jadore Moi would have won with her final score of 9.5, she was technically disqualified because her sire wasn’t a licensed stallion — but such was her obvious quality and will to win that Sophie decided to buy a half share in the horse with her husband. Top twenty finishes at the Six- and Seven-Year-Old World Championships followed, and more and more people began to see what she’d felt — include the group of loyal owners who are now at the helm of the other half share.

“They all loved the story with the horse, and they also saw the chance I had with her,” says Sophie. If that was a gamble, it was only in keeping with the calculated risk Sophie had taken just a couple of years previously: after a working student placement with Ingrid Klimke, she spent a year working for the incoming German chef d’equipe and former championship rider Peter Thomsen, before returning to Ingrid for a two-year formal training period. After that finished in 2013, she made a big decision.

Sophie shares the podium with William Fox-Pitt and Sidney Dufresne. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I took the risk to start my own business directly after that two years, and Ingrid said, ‘yeah, try to do it, you can do it!’,” she recalls. That positivity and supportive relationship has carried on through Sophie’s years as a professional, in which she and her husband have worked together to help her climb the levels. “She’s a great support to me and I still owe her so much.”

Sophie celebrates with team trainers Marcus Döhring and Hans Melzer. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sophie, who’s a well-liked character on the European circuit for her easy smile and unassuming nature, looked as icy-veined as her mentor as she entered the ring, even after watching the chaos unfold earlier in the day.

“I’m always a little bit excited, and I try to focus on the horse the whole time,” she says. “I’m not watching the others while I warm up; I just do my thing, and today we had a very good plan with Marcus [Döhring, German jumping trainer]. Somehow, you get the confidence, because the trainers say you can do it — and I know I have a great horse, the very best I could wish for. She’s a good jumping horse and if I do most of the things right, then she’s doing everything right.”

Sophie might be processing the exciting reality of her big win for a little while to come, but to the industry around here, she’s already a confirmed superstar — and her 2022 goal of getting onto the German team at some bigger events looks a very reasonable one indeed, even in what could still be considered the fledgling stages of her career.

“It’s really unbelievably extraordinary,” she laughs. “I did my first three-star on her, and my first four-star on her, and she’s my only four-star horse — and in my second four-star long, it’s really crazy to stand next to William Fox-Pitt on the podium!”

William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though a record third Boekelo win would have been an undoubtedly cool story for the event’s big fiftieth birthday, William Fox-Pitt was delighted to maintain his second place after cross-country with the nine-year-old mare Grafennacht, who jumped an economical clear to add 1.2 time penalties, giving Sophie a slight time buffer but securing his own spot on the podium. His joy was, perhaps, paired with some surprise: yesterday, after his clear round inside the time, he told EN with some certainty that, although the clear rounds would come in time from the talented mare, she wouldn’t jump a clear today.

“I was just enjoying the moment,” he laughs. “I know she wants to jump a clear, but she doesn’t always give them quite enough space. It might not have been the prettiest round — not like our winner’s! — but at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter. She didn’t do anything wrong, and I certainly can’t complain about that — she’s a good horse and I came here positively, thinking she could come here and do well.”

William was gracious in defeat — though a clear round and second place isn’t much of a defeat, as far as we’re concerned — praising Sophie’s riding and remarking how great it is to see the next generation of riders coming through the ranks. In hindsight, though, he might have misjudged Sophie’s youthful visage: “William thought I was 21,” she laughs. “I’m 34! He said, ‘oh! Well I’m glad you’re not like, a spoiled kid with a very good horse!'”

Sidney Dufresne and Tresor Mail. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Sidney Dufresne jumped a gutsy clear aboard his 2018 WEG mount Tresor Mail to remain in third place, adding 0.8 time penalties to his 26.2 dressage and faultless cross-country round, while British team rider and European Champion Nicola Wilson was able to secure fourth place with her Blenheim eight- and nine-year-olds winner Coolparks Sarco despite a frustrating rail and 0.4 time penalties.

Nicola Wilson and Coolparks Sarco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“He’ll have learned so much today, and it was just an unfortunate fence down — but he jumped a beautiful round and I was over the moon with him all week,” says Nicola, who rides the horse for the Lamberts, who also co-own her European Champion JL Dublin.

Though the nine-year-old gelding experienced crowds at Blenheim, they’re not a patch on Boekelo’s loud and enthusiastic swarms of spectators, which served to give the horse an education in championship-style atmosphere — a challenge he rose to with his characteristic positivity.

“He hadn’t experienced anything like this, but now he has, and he coped fantastically,” she says. “He came into the week smiling and he’s come out of it smiling as well, and I’m just delighted for Jamie and Jo Lambert, who have been amazing supporters of ours. It’s so exciting to think that they have another lovely horse in the waiting. We’re really excited about the future, and I’m feeling incredibly humbled and excited to have a horse like him.”

Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Plenty of work and a serious commitment to ongoing education paid dividends for Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire, who finished best of the Americans in fifth place after toppling the first element of the double. But such was the drama delivered by the course that this result actually saw them step up a place on the leaderboard, bringing their European adventure to its conclusion in the finest of styles.

“I am ecstatic,” says Sydney, who made her European debut at CHIO Aachen last month with the rangy eleven-year-old gelding. “I’m so proud of this horse — he’s had such an upward swing all year long, and I’m just thrilled. We have the easy part, I think — they tote us around and they don’t have to do that, so I think it’s just very incredible that we get to sit up here and enjoy it!”

Sydney has one more competition to head to before she hops on a plane back home — she’ll tackle Poland’s Strzegom Horse Trials next week with a young horse, giving her one more golden opportunity to soak up everything she can on the continent and apply it to her training system. Like her fellow US riders, the experience has made her hungry to continue to show up and deliver results on the world stage.

“I think the takeaway for the whole team is that when we go home, we’re going to try harder and every single day, our training needs to step up,” she says. “I think with Aachen and Boekelo, our team has been very close — everyone from Erik Duvander, Peter Wylde, Jenni Autry, everyone who’s helping us is huge and we’re really coming together.”

A return trip in 2022 to keep the good times — and the good results — coming is already firmly on Sydney’s radar.

“As long as he’s feeling healthy and happy, we’ll hopefully come back for Luhmühlen,” she says. “That’s our plan — and maybe to come over a little earlier and spend some time over here.”

Hallie Coon and Global Ex. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just three riders managed completely penalty-free rounds through the day, and two of those were able to climb into the top ten as a result: Japanese Olympians Yoshiaki Oiwa and Calle 44 moved from 12th to sixth, while US individuals Hallie Coon and Global Ex climbed from 13th to seventh. They were the only combination to finish on their dressage score in the entire field, giving them a weeklong climb of 26 placings and proving that the mighty little mare, who is in just her first season at four-star, is the real deal.

“She was unbelievable,” says Hallie of the 12-year-old Dutch-bred mare, who was initially produced by Brian Morrison of Global Event Horses and latterly Katherine Coleman, before Hallie took the ride in November of last year. Then, the mare was green but capable at three-star, and Hallie piloted her around Portugal’s Barocca d’Alva as their debut. Since then, she’s worked on improving the mare’s strength and musculature, producing a series of exciting results along the way and earning, in return, the kind of feeling she’s never encountered from a horse before.

“I don’t even know how to describe her,” she says. “You can just trust her, and just do the turns and have the right place. As long as you keep her in the right balance she’s right there for you, and it’s the best feeling in the world. I just never had a doubt in my mind that she could do it, and I don’t think she did either.”

Hallie Coon directs the applause to her mare after a super clear round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After watching the entirety of the first session of jumping, Hallie and US team jumping coach Peter Wylde decided to slightly revise the plan of attack for her round, which made best use of the mare’s surprisingly ground-covering stride: “I only changed one thing, and that was that I was initially going to do eight to the triple bar. And then Peter came back and said one of the horses walked it in seven, and he was like, ‘your horse can absolutely get there in seven’. And so I just kept coming, and it was right there.”

Now, Hallie is looking ahead to the future with her superstar mare, who she plans to debut at five-star next year and who, she says with no small measure of awe, would be equally capable of running around a course like Burghley’s or Pau’s: “She’s the ultimate — it’s all really exciting.”

Izzy Taylor and Hartacker. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Great Britain’s Izzy Taylor took eighth place with the nine-year-old Hartacker, who has overcome some green, educational moments in his career to become a serious young talent for the British team. He jumped around inside the tough-to-catch time today, and though he took a pole along the way in the treble, the pair were able to climb from eleventh into the top ten.

“He’s definitely stepped up, even just through this week,” she says. “Going into the arena today, he was much more of a man than when he went in on Thursday — then, he was a little bit scared by it all and a bit embarrassed to be there.”

The pair were one of eleven to add nothing to their dressage score yesterday, where Izzy explains that he gave her a green but exciting trip across the country: “He was green, but he was always going to be green,” she says. “But he never deviated off his line; he asked me what was going on occasionally, and I said, ‘you’re going that way!’ and he just said, ‘oh, okay! That’s fine! If that’s what you want!’ The further around we went, the better he got.”

Hartacker was a late starter, only beginning his eventing career as a seven-year-old in 2019, and so this week provided him with his first-ever experience of ‘pre-pandemic’ eventing.

“He’s very inexperienced to be here, and like all the nine-year-olds after COVID, for them to come out on Saturday and see that number of people that close to you has been amazing; it’s been so good for them.”

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Like Izzy before him, Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy had a pole down with the homebred MGH Tokyo Phil but still climbed two places to finish ninth, while the top ten was rounded out by Tamie Smith and Danito, who had two late rails to slip from third place — but nevertheless, a super week with the relatively inexperienced gelding and an excellent clear from the very green Solaguayre California for nineteenth gave her plenty to get excited about for the seasons to come.

“He had a rail, and then I had a rail, but he’s getting better and better, and that’s good,” she says. “And Solaguayre California is such a superb athlete; she just went in there and it was just beautiful, just wonderful. I’m so lucky to be riding her. It’s so fun when they jump like that — I’m really excited about her.”

Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tamie now comes to the end of a few months of back-and-forth between the US and Europe — after training in Aachen for Olympic pre-export quarantine and then flying on to Tokyo as travelling reserve, she opted to make the most of the opportunity to compete on this side of the pond and embrace the unique and valuable foundation that competing in the beating heart of the sport offers.

“Every time you come over here it just takes you to another level. Riding is such a learning game, and if you’re open to always wanting to be better then you get better. I just feel like every time I come over here, it takes me a notch or two higher. I’m really proud of the horses and proud of how I rode, and proud of the weekend we’ve had; I’m obviously disappointed because you’d like a little luck here and there, but it is what it is and they have such a huge future.”

Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestyle. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

US team anchor Jennie Brannigan and the quirky but talented FE Lifestyle finished fifteenth after knocking fence three, giving them a weeklong leap of seventeen places up the leaderboard and providing longtime owners and supporters Tim and Nina Gardner with another reason to get excited about their resident redhead.

“I came here knowing that individually, it probably wasn’t going to be my week, but for me, yesterday meant everything because mentally, to pull through and do a good job for our country meant the world to me,” she says. “Erik’s put a lot of time into me, and I’m very grateful — so to do that proud means a lot. The horse is a good horse for the future, too; he did pretty alright today, and the Gardners are great people. This horse has always been a bit of a question mark — he doesn’t always make things easy in some regards, but he made being the anchor and pulling that off easy. He’s just a ginger, so you’ve got to work with that!”

Tim Lips is joined on the Dutch National Championship programme by his daughter, Isa, who helps accept the congratulations bestowed upon her dad. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Dutch National Championship went to Tim Lips, who has now won it five times on four different horses — an impressive feat in itself that’s made more so by the fact that his ride this week, Lady Chin van’t Moerven Z, is a catch-ride that he’s never competed before. He’ll now hand the reins back to his student, China’s Huadong Sun, with extra insight and experience that they can use to plan a 2022 WEG campaign and some more exciting results along the way.

The final top ten of Boekelo’s action-packed 50th anniversary edition.

The Brits are victorious again! Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The team competition went the way of Great Britain, who proved unbeatable in all three phases despite their team full of inexperienced mounts. All four riders were on nine-year-olds, and among the huge team experience of William Fox-PittIzzy Taylor, and European champion Nicola Wilson was a new face in British team debutant James Rushbrooke, who finished 20th with Milchem Eclipse after delivering just the third clear round of the day.

James Rushbrooke and Milchem Eclipse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It’s been amazing being on the team, and especially being on it with who I’m with,” says James, who has produced the ‘slightly weird’ Milchem Eclipse from a five-year-old, and finished sixth in Bicton’s tough under-25 CCI4*-L with him earlier this year. “When I got the call [to join the team] I was a bit like, ‘oh god, that’s a lot of pressure’ — but they’ve been amazing, and they’ve given me loads of help, and we get to walk away as good friends which is the best thing.”

Nicola echoed his sentiments and expressed her positivity in the continued strength and depth of the British squad: “It’s been a lovely week, and to be with Izzy and William and to have the first time for James Rushbrooke — it’s been an amazing experience for him. It’s been a lovely team effort, and obviously everybody else that has done the hard work before this week in the Nations Cup means that we’re in this position now, which is lovely. It’s great to be on a team with these guys and to come away with the win.”

Team USA lines up after a successful week in the Netherlands. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though they gave the Brits a seriously good fight through the week, Team USA’s riders were delighted with their final silver position — the second in a row scored by the team after an excellent showing at Aachen last month. Each was quick to praise the direction that chef d’equipe Erik Duvander and Managing Director Jenni Autry are taking the team in, citing a renewed team spirit and a huge amount of trust and time as the defining forces that are heralding a new, winning era for Team USA.

It’s all about team spirit: Jennie Brannigan and Tamie Smith celebrate in the lap of honour. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I think Erik and Jenni deserve a lot of credit for America doing better,” says Jennie Brannigan. “I think at the Olympics everyone was like, ‘we should have done better’ — but we did the best we’ve done in a long time. And then Aachen happened, and that was the best we’d done in a long time — and then this happened. I think that’s a really important thing to understand: it takes more than four years to make a team great, and we’re on the way. They’re doing a great job, and we should keep on this path — and we don’t have any better people to believe in us than them.”

Tamie Smith agrees, noting how special it felt — and how powerful — to unite the squad in such a positive way.

“We really just all came together,” she says. “Like, Hallie wasn’t on the team but we made her a part of the team, and that’s what it’s about. It’s fun trying to make it different, and it’s not everyone’s belief, but I’ve always believed in it. You can feel the difference, and it is a huge difference when you’ve really got each other’s back and you’re all together.”

Germany rounded out the podium in third place, while France finished fourth and Ireland fifth. Sweden came into the competition almost the de facto winners of the 2021 Nations Cup series, a title they won in 2019, too, and they’re feeling positive about the future with a European bronze medal in their hands, too: “We’re consistent at four-star now,” says stalwart team member Christoffer Forsberg, “and now we’ll work to take that to the five-star, WEG, and Olympic levels.”

The final standings in the team competition of the 2021 Nations Cup finale.

That’s all for us for now from beautiful, boozy, bold and brilliant Boekelo. We’re a little emotional to be waving goodbye (and to finally accept the impending post-eventing hangover that’s been threatening to destroy us for days), so stay tuned for some more snippets over the next couple of days. We’ve never been good at walking away from the things we love.

Until next time: Go Eventing.

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Three Held in Final Horse Inspection at Boekelo

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Boekelo is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestyle. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Boekelo field is down to a petite and perky 43 competitors after this morning’s final horse inspection, which took place under the critical gaze of Andrew Bennie (NZL), president of the ground jury, ably assisted by Christina Klingspor (SWE) and Merel Schurink (NED). That’s after the overnight withdrawal of Germany’s Josephine Schnaufer-Völkel, who opted not to present Pasadena 217, with whom she was competing as an individual and sitting in overnight 31st place. That withdrawal would herald a tense morning for the German individual contingent: both Andreas Dibowski‘s Brennus (29th overnight) and Cord Mysegaes‘s Dekorateurin Baumeister (19th) were sent to the holding box, though both would subsequently receive the nod to continue their competition after a re-presentation.

Tim Lips and Lady Chin Van’t Moerven Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The most significant hold of this morning’s three was that of Tim Lips and Lady Chin van’t Moerven Z, a catch-ride that he’s piloting this week to give the horse more experience for his student, Chinese Olympian Huadong Sun. Though time penalties saw them relinquish their close second-place status yesterday, they’re at the top of the leaderboard in the Dutch National Championship — but after a re-presentation that saw them trot a further two times, they were accepted and will continue on to this afternoon’s showjumping.

Two-phase leaders Sophie Leube and Jadore Moi. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Our team leaderboard and individual top twenty remain untouched as we look ahead to the final phase, which is set to begin at 12.30 p.m. local time/11.30 a.m. UK/6.30 a.m. Eastern. Germany’s Sophie Leube remains in the top spot with Jadore Moi, followed closely by Great Britain’s William Fox-Pitt, giving Sophie just a time penalty in hand. Neither eleven-year-old Jadore Moi nor nine-year-old Grafennacht have spotless showjumping records, though nor does third-placed Tamie Smith and her twelve-year-old Danito, who are themselves just a time penalty behind William — so expect an afternoon of seriously exciting competition, because the Boekelo showjumping course typically proves a proper test. With just one rail covering the top nine, we could see a major shake-up through the leaderboard — or we could be about to watch some stats-defying magic happen. In any case, it’ll make for excellent viewing, so sign up for your ClipMyHorse.TV account to make sure you catch it all.

Hallie Coon and Global Ex. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Need a refresher before it all kicks off? Here’s the current top twenty individually, and it’s jam-packed with movers and shakers already:

Tamie Smith and Danito sit third individually, while Tamie’s second ride, Solaguayre California, sits 24th after being deemed to have run out when going long at the coffin complex. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And here’s how the team leaderboards are looking. While Great Britain remains in the top spot, they hold onto it with less than one rail in hand over the US — and behind them, there’s a whopping nine-rail margin between USA and Germany, which puts us firmly into match race territory for the Nations Cup victory. With all three of our remaining US team members safely through the inspection — and all four of Britain’s equally booked in for this afternoon’s finale — this is a victory that’ll come right down to the wire, with the deciding ride going to second-placed William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht, who will be the penultimate pair to jump.

Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’ll be back this afternoon with a full report from the final day at Boekelo — and in the meantime, grab a Grolsch and Go Eventing!

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US Stays Securely in Silver at Boekelo as Sophie Leube Heads Influential Cross-Country Day

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Boekelo is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

Over 60,000 enthusiastic spectators packed into Boekelo for its 50th anniversary cross-country day, and they cheered local hero Merel Blom out of the box voraciously. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just 44 combinations will come forward for tomorrow morning’s final horse inspection after an eventful day of cross-country here in the Netherlands — a significant thinning of the field from its original 61 starters. We were down by one from the get-go: Germany’s Niklas Bschorer opted to withdraw Back In Time 2 this morning, though he was riding as an individual, not a team rider, and so this had no major impact on the leaderboard.

When the competition itself got under way, it certainly did so with a bang. France’s Benjamin Massie and Climaine de Cacao blazed the trail in fine style, sailing home clear and just one second inside the time — but although very quick rounds would continue to be the defining point of the day, Adrian Ditcham’s course offered no room for complacency after that superb first round. 14 of the 58 starters ultimately failed to complete the course, while a further 12 picked up jumping penalties along the way, making this one of the most exciting Boekelo cross-country days we’ve seen in a long time.

Riders and connections were alike were effusive in their praise of course designer Adrian Ditcham, who was deemed to have perfectly balanced the difficulty of the course for this level and presented tough but fair questions that challenged horses without punishing them.

“He’s a very underrated course designer, and he’s actually quite new to designing at this level, but I think he’s got a perfect balance for this track and it was a super job done,” says Dutch chef d’equipe Andrew Heffernan. Adding to the positive feel of the track was the perfect going: though Boekelo experienced its typical seasonal deluge in the lead-up to the weekend, a couple of uncharacteristically sunny days and plenty of work put into the footing meant that for the first time in memory, the going was fast rather than holding and allowed horses to skim easily over the top without any excess strain. That meant that an impressive twelve pairs came home inside the optimum time of 10:16, and though the leaderboard was tightly packed enough that even a second over the clock would be influential, we saw plenty of inexperienced horses catch the time.

Sophie Leube and Jadore Moi retain their lead after cross-country. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Chief among those combinations is Germany’s Sophie Leube and the exciting mare Jadore Moi, who retain their first-phase lead after an easy romp home three seconds inside the time — a feat made even more impressive by the fact that it’s only their second-ever CCI4*-L.

“It’s amazing, and I have no words, actually! It’s my second CCI4*-L, and I’m so proud of my horse and what we’ve achieved now — it’s amazing,” she says. But although she made the track look easy, Sophie admits she never expected to manage a clear inside the time.

“I know we can do a good dressage, but this [level] is still big for me and a big challenge, the whole thing. To be in Boekelo is an honour.”

Sophie, who began her career training with Ingrid Klimke and actually rode her first-ever FEI event on a young SAP Hale Bob OLD, has certainly been making her presence known on the world stage as one of Germany’s most impressive rising stars, but nonetheless, she’s incredibly humble, and was quick to honour the people who had helped her reach this point.

“I’m very thankful to be able to ride the horse, and for the trainers around me,” she says. “I wouldn’t be here without them, and I’m very, very happy.”

William Fox-Pitt and the keen but green Grafennacht take second place overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Two-time Boekelo winner William Fox-Pitt made a solid move towards becoming the first-ever three-time winner of the event, stepping up from fourth to second place after a foot-perfect round on the nine-year-old Grafennacht. They crossed the finish line with two seconds to spare, lodging the best result of the day for the British team, who remain in first place in the Nations Cup competition as they head into the final phase. For William, who is aiming for the mare’s five-star debut next season, coming back to Boekelo after a largely spectator-free pandemic isn’t just about being competitive — it’s about exposure for young horses, who won’t have encountered anything quite like the spectacle of 60,000 drunk and enthusiastic Dutch people.

“She was fab, but I’d hoped she would be fab, because she’s a top cross-country horse,” he says — though, he continues, “she’s not a top showjumper yet, so though she can jump, I don’t expect her to jump a clear round tomorrow. But she might! I do believe she will one day; I believe she wants to. She’s really done everything I’ve asked, and she’s got some good miles for a nine-year-old.”

William, like Andy and like so many of his fellow riders, was vocal in his praise of Boekelo’s track and the effort made to return to the calendar — something that wasn’t guaranteed until the team got the government’s go ahead less than a month ago.

“I think they did an amazing job because it wasn’t a terrifying course, but I really felt they learned quite a lot,” he says. “What the team has achieved here to keep the event going through all their major trials and tribulations of the last few years is quite incredible, and I think most events in Europe would be lost after what they’ve been through. For them to carry this on, we as the riders are so grateful and so lucky to have this amazing venue.”

If William were to win Boekelo this year and set a new record for the most wins, it would be rather fitting — after all, it’s the event’s fiftieth anniversary, and although a first-ever Dutch win would have been the best way to celebrate, a returning hero is a pretty special consolation prize.

“That’s a dream, really, to win Boekelo three times,” William says with a smile. “It’s quite a thought, but realistically probably quite unlikely — we’ve got a very good leader and tomorrow will be a big part of the competition. But it’s a great honour to be sitting with some greats and to think that we’ve won wonderful Boekelo.”

Tamie Smith and Danito hold onto third place going into the final phase. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

Tamie Smith remains in third place with the exceptional Danito, who found a new turn of speed to finish just two seconds over the time — despite a watch malfunction that meant that Tamie had to judge the speed without being able to check her minute markers.

“I was like, ‘oh god, I can’t worry about that, I just have to go as fast as I can!’,” she laughs. “That’s the first time I’ve come close to making the time with him; I think he’s ready to go fast now. I’ve had a good seven to ten time at his previous four longs, and he’s a bit of a pony, so he says ‘I’m getting tired’ and I have to keep him going. But I think not having my watch helped me go faster, actually, and he read all the jumps great. It was so easy for him.”

As the first of the US riders out of the box and just the fifth starter of the day, Tamie’s round was also a valuable way to gain intel about the course, and like several of the riders before her, she discovered that the penultimate question, a wide brush spread to a triple brush at 26 and 27, had the potential to cause a problem if it wasn’t carefully managed.

“He landed from the brush in a little bit of a heap; he kind of tripped,” she says. “But he handled it so good — he just picked his head up and jumped right through there.”

Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California jump the second fence, situated directly next to what appeared to be a nightclub. Only at Boekelo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

At the tail end of the day, Tamie’s second ride, Solaguayre California, was able to make best use of both a functioning timepiece and the intel her rider had gleaned earlier in the day, and as a result, the Argentinian Sport Horse delivered a superb run inside the time that utterly belied her inexperience. This is just her seventh ever FEI cross-country run, and she stepped up to CCI4*-S just six weeks ago, but despite a lack of mileage and a myriad of potential distractions on course, she never stopped hunting for the next question.

“She was awesome — this is just her second Advanced, and she’s unreal,” says Tamie, who debuted the mare at FEI level just last year. “It’s fast going today, unlike any Boekelo I’ve ever seen in the history of Boekelo, so I was hoping [to be inside the time] and I was going for that. She so wants to jump between the flags, even though she’s a green horse. She’s just amazing. She’s so quick, and so fast with her feet, and she’s just a phenomenal horse.”

The pair were awarded 20 penalties when Tamie opted to go long at the C element of the coffin combination, a route that requires horses to skim past the direct route to manage the tight left-handed turn, but pending a review of the penalties, Solaguayre California is set to move into overnight fourth place on the same score as Great Britain’s Nicola Wilson and Coolparks Sarco, who delivered a faster time that will ultimately relegate them to fifth if the appeal is successful, as cross-country tie-breaks are decided by proximity to the optimum time.

Nicola Wilson’s Blenheim CCI4*-S winner Coolparks Sarco produces the goods yet again. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just 0.8 behind them is France’s Sidney Dufresne, whose fourteen-year-old stallion Tresor Mail brings the most considerable experience of any horse in this year’s field, having jumped clear around the 2018 World Equestrian Games.

Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire make it happen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Third out for the US team was Sydney Elliott, who’s having the kind of season most of us daydream about with her eleven-year-old Oldenburg QC Diamantaire: after making their five-star debut as a partnership for a top twenty finish at Kentucky this spring, Sydney embarked on her first-ever trip to compete abroad, trailblazing for the US at CHIO Aachen last month. Their admirable performance there was also an educational one; the atmosphere in the main arena resulted in some expensive tension, earning them a 39.4, and they clocked up 10.8 time penalties across the country en route to bringing essential intel back to their teammates. All of that has served to help them peak when it counts, and their flowing, expressive test here put them on a competitive mark of 26.7, putting them into equal eleventh place before today’s exertions. And what exertions they were: the pair made light work of the tough track, attacking each distance and coming home ten seconds inside the time to move up to sixth place going into the final phase.

“It was an amazing day from the start,” says a delighted Sydney. “The crowds actually backed him off a little bit, and so all I had to do was drop the reins and keep kicking — it was awesome!”

That meant that despite the influence of the track and the pressure of riding for the team, Sydney’s Boekelo round with the oversized gelding was actually one of the easiest she’s had, helped along in part, once again, by that pivotal Aachen outing.

“He was brilliant; I’m so thrilled,” she says. “For him, I always knew that at the first water, he’s not going to jump in well — just like at Aachen. He basically tip-toed in at a trot, and so I knew that would be a little funny, and I did six there instead of the five [it walked]. Everything else went exactly as I walked it. It was a good day — he came through the finish sound and happy, and that’s what we want!”

Germany’s Alina Dibowski, the 20-year-old daughter of two-time Boekelo winner and German team stalwart Andreas, sits seventh after climbing twelve places with her Young Rider mount Barbados 26, with whom she went clear inside the time, while Sweden makes an appearance in the top ten in Lina Forsberg, who lies eighth with Kaizen, climbing from 23rd after coming home with four seconds to spare. Great British climbers round out the top ten: Tom Rowland and Quintilius, who ride as individuals, added 2 time penalties to jump from 17th to ninth, while team anchors Izzy Taylor and Hartacker were clear in the time to move from 26th to tenth. They made the most of the open door left by two departing members of the top ten: the Netherlands’ Willemina van der Goes-Petter and Ekino were eighth after dressage but saw their weekend end early after a rider fall at fence 13, while fellow Dutch rider and reigning national champions Merel Blom and Ceda NOP had a horse fall at the final element of the main water complex at 20.

Hallie Coon and Global Ex make a major move up the leaderboard. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

US individuals Hallie Coon and Global Ex made a spectacular leap up the rankings after delivering a fierce clear with two seconds to spare, which bumped them up by 20 places and sees them sit 13th going into tomorrow’s final horse inspection and showjumping. This is a relatively new ride for Hallie, who took the reins from Katherine Coleman at the tail end of 2020 and stepped the twelve-year-old mare up to four-star this spring — but in every outing so far, she tells EN she’s got the feeling that the diminutive grey is the real deal.

“She was unreal,” says Hallie. “She just kept galloping; I never had to put my leg on, and I never had to say ‘come on’. I had to say ‘come here’ a couple of times, but I could take my time and use those extra seconds, because she lands and she goes. It’s a good feeling to have that little bit of breathing room and be able to ride things properly, instead of just having to go balls to the wall, and that really helped today. But obviously, I haven’t had her very long, and I think I learned a lot about her — and it was all good.”

Through building their partnership and incrementally stepping the mare up to greater challenges, she’s also been able to develop her physical strength and shape — and now, people who might have previously written ‘Dolly’ off are seeing her huge potential, too.

“Every event she just shows me a little bit more and a little bit more,” she says. “It’s so funny — the vet who did her pre-purchase exam in England wrote in the notes, ‘nice horse — not sure it’s a top one.’ And she came up to me in the box after cross-country today and said, ‘oh boy, was I wrong!’ The mare just looks completely different; she’s come on so much and her musculature is so different. She was just beaming about her, and it was really good to see that.”

Dolly might be small and unprepossessing, but it’s her extraordinary focus that helps her produce round after round of solid cross-country — even with all the usual distractions of Boekelo, and a few extras besides.

“I don’t think she ever takes her eye off what’s between the flags,” says Hallie. “There was actually a dog under her legs — I was coming up to one of the wagons and literally a stride before, I was right on the ropes and someone lets their dog jump out in front of me. She never stopped looking at the fence, and if they hadn’t pulled the dog away, she’d have gone straight over it — it was inches away. She just never reacts; never takes her eye off the ball.”

Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestyle anchor the US team in fine style. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As the US team anchor, Jennie Brannigan knew she had one job with FE Lifestyle, and it was a big one: jump clear and do it fast, particularly after an earlier fall for Matt Flynn meant that all three of the other team rounds would have to count. But Jennie has always had faith to burn in the capable, quick gelding, and she knew that many of his qualities as a cross-country horse are similar to those of Sydney’s QC Diamantaire, which mean that she was able to firm up her course plan based off the intel her teammate brought back.

“I felt good about the course, but I waited for Sydney’s input because I know her horse has a very big step and mine has a huge step,” she explains. “She did the four in the final water, and so I did the four in the final water, and she told me she did six in the first water, so I took that advice to heart. Other than that, it was just getting it done.”

For Jennie, the full focus this week has been on logging a strong result as a team, though today’s result puts her well in the hunt, too.

“I didn’t come here to do well individually — I came here to do well as a team, but obviously it’s great if you can finish well individually as well,” says Jennie, who climbed from 32nd to 14th place after stopping the clock just one second over the optimum time. “I think we all wanted to do a good job for our country, and the team obviously did that at Aachen, so that’s what we wanted to do here. He’s a green horse, so I’m happy with him.”

The team spirit of the USA this week has been palpable, with every groom, rider, and connection rallying to help take care of horses after each phase, offer advice and insight, and provide motivation — a rallying force that has helped produce some seriously exciting results so far this week.

“For me, just being calm is all I need to do well cross-country,” she says. “We had southern rap going in the tack room, and I love that, and as a team, we’ve had some ups and downs — but we’re going all the way up. We’re bringing it all together, and we want to do a good job: Erik [Duvander] has believed in us, and put in a lot of time with us, and we obviously want to do a good job for our country but Erik’s done a great job and we want to hopefully show that. We’d be lost without him, for sure.”

Tim Lips gives Lady Chin van’t Moerven Z a super education. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though an excellent test and a score of 24.5 put Tim Lips into second place going into cross-country, his ride this week is a catch-ride and his intention today was to provide Lady Chin van’t Moerven Z with experience for her usual rider, China’s Huadong Sun, before next season. That meant that even before cross-country began, he was realistic about the result he’d produce: while a classy clear was well within their wheelhouse, she’s not the fastest horse, and trying for any heroics on a horse he’d never competed before wouldn’t ultimately serve to build her confidence for her 2022 WEG campaign. And so, despite what must have been enormous pressure to chase the lead and become the first-ever Dutch winner of Boekelo in its anniversary year, Tim stuck to his guns and gave the eleven-year-old mare a superb education on course. They added 14.8 time penalties to slip down to 21st place, but Tim is still top of the leaderboard for the Dutch National Championship, and will go into tomorrow’s competition with a rail in hand over reigning champion Merel Blom, this time fighting for a win with Crossborder Radar Love NOP after a fall with her titleholder Ceda NOP.

“The horse has some experience — she went to Tokyo, but before that, she only ran to get the qualifications with Sun,” says Tim. “I think they did a great achievement, but we were looking back at the last few years and thinking about aiming for the World Championships next year, and we think the World Championships will be more strong [than Tokyo]. So Sun thought that this would be a great experience the horse, and that’s the reason I was competing her here. I wasn’t as fast as others, but I let the horse run and I took the time where I thought I should take time, and at the end the horse felt really fresh, so that’s a really good feeling for the next competitions with Sun.”

The team line-up looks much the same as it did after the first phase: Great Britain remains in the top spot, though they don’t have a rail in hand over Team USA, who are down to three riders after an unfortunate tumble for Matt Flynn and Wizzerd in the tough water complex. Behind them, Germany remains in third place, though by a significant margin after a fall for Heike Jahncke and a run-out for Ingrid Klimke and EQUISTROS Siena Just Do It. The team sit 38.3 penalties behind the US, which translates to nine rails in hand.

A tough day for the Swedish team means they’ll need to bring their A game tomorrow to win this year’s Nations Cup series: they’ve been so consistent this year that they only need to finish in the top eight of nine teams, but they come here with just three riders and one of them, Sandra Gustafsson, failed to complete today, putting them on an aggregate score of 1083. Italy, also down to two riders, is three rails behind them on 1098.9, and so the pressure is on for our Scandinavian pals.

Tomorrow’s finale begins with the final horse inspection, starting at 9.30 a.m. local time/8.30 a.m. British time/3.30 a.m. Eastern time, and will be followed by showjumping from 12.30 p.m. local/11.30 a.m. UK/6.30 a.m. Eastern. We’ll be coming to you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (ish) from the trot-up and beyond, so tune in to EN to find out exactly how the exciting final day plays out here at Boekelo. Until then: Go Eventing!

Military Boekelo: [Website] [Entries and Live Scoring] [Live-Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Bold, Beautiful Boekelo: Preview the Cross-Country Challenge to Come

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Boekelo is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

History is celebrated at the final fence. Photo by Adrian Ditcham/CrossCountryApp.

It’s nearly go time at Military Boekelo, where 60 horses and riders and nine teams are battling for individual and Nations Cup glory in this much-loved CCIO4*-L. Set on the cusp of a town and a motorway in the far east of the Netherlands, Boekelo’s track tends to feature twisty, technical combinations interspersed with galloping stretches and, of course, an awful lot of Grolsch tents along the way. This is the fiftieth anniversary of the event, and the week so far has been a full-blown celebration of the sport — and you can spot nods to history on course, too. The final fence is covered with images of people and moments who have made Boekelo such a special part of our sport, including the likes of Sir Mark Todd and Martin Lips, whose son, Tim, sits second going into cross-country today.

The course measures 5,845 meters, with 40 jumping efforts over 29 questions. The optimum time of 10:16 will be a tough one to catch — so no pressure on our top three, who sit less than a time penalty apart!

You can take a walk around the course, courtesy of course designer Adrian Ditcham and CrossCountryApp, below:

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Or, check out this super video created by the fine folks at Irish Eventing Times, and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram for more fabulous updates, videos, and photos from around the European circuit.

Want to follow all the action as it happens? Sally Spickard will be running live updates, and you can catch the Live-Stream here. We’ll be bringing you a full report and gallery from all the action later on today, so stick with EN to find out all you need to know from the exciting finale of the 2021 FEI Nations Cup series!

Military Boekelo: [Website] [Entries and Live Scoring] [Live-Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

The Snuggle is Real: Team USA Gets Cozy at Boekelo

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Boekelo is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

There are two serious jumping phases left to tackle at Military Boekelo CCIO4*-L, in which the US currently sit in a close second place, but no matter what happens this weekend, we reckon our American contingent have already won the prize for the most team spirit: you can find them at the in-gate for each and every US rider’s test, acting as a roving cheerleading squad and all chipping in to help with the serious business of sorting the horses after their tests. Oh, and there’s been a whole heck of a lot of hugging going on, too, and who can blame them for feeling a bit heart-eyed, really, when their horses are easily the most ludicrously cute in the field? Dive in and feel the love with our in-gate gallery from the first phase here in the Netherlands.

Hallie Coon is all smiles after a super test from the inexperienced Global Ex. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tamie Smith’s green but exciting Solaguayre California gets a well-deserved bit of fuss after a top-ten test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jennie Brannigan’s FE Lifestyle says “no fanks!” to the post-test bit check, and who can blame him, really? Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hallie Coon’s Global Ex gets some love from groom Tabby Fiorentina. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Matt Flynn is very tall, which makes him perfect for the tough job of removing ears for the steward’s inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tamie Smith and Erik Duvander discuss the finer details…

…and then hug it out for good measure. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jenni Autry and Jennie Brannigan take the two-pronged approach to horsecare after Danito’s test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tamie Smith’s groom, Taylor Greene, takes on horse-whisperer duties. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Danito: picture perfect and one of the US’s brightest rising stars. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We want to talk about one thing and one thing only: Wizzerd’s ears. We’re obsessed. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Even chef d’equipe Erik Duvander can’t resist a bit of pony patting. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tabby Fiorentino, Jennie Brannigan, and Ash Heller watch on as Hallie Coon prepares to enter at A. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After the test, it’s all about the full team debrief — and that includes celebrations with the squad. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

 

Confirmed: Team USA wins the gold for the cutest horses here at Boekelo, as Global Ex happily confirms. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Teammates Tamie Smith and Jennie Brannigan celebrate after Tamie trailblazes to a super score with Danito. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Global Ex receives a highly coveted high-five to the schnozz from Jennie Brannigan. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sorry, but could Danito BE any more adorable? We think not. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The man behind the magic: Tamie Smith shares a hug with Jo Hinneman, the German dressage guru who’s become her right-hand man during the pandemic, and with whom the US squad based themselves before Boekelo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

QC Diamantaire is all character after a super test with Sydney Elliott puts him just outside the top ten overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

US Eventing’s Managing Director Jenni Autry doesn’t play favourites, but if she did, Wizzerd would be right up there. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tyler Held, head groom for Jennie Brannigan, shares a moment with FE Lifestyle. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Didn’t I do well?” Wizzerd smiles for his people after a sweet test with Matt Flynn. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The best way to get attention? A full squad pile-on, as FE Lifestyle proves. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hallie Coon and her partner Ash Heller stave off the early morning Boekelo fog. It’s snuggle szn, baby. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

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Day Two at Boekelo: The Leaders are Untouchable, But Tamie’s Twice in the Top Ten

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Boekelo is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

Hallie Coon’s Global Ex gets some love from groom Tabby Fiorentina. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

With the team competition’s first phase endeavours done and dusted yesterday, today was all about those riders coming forward as individuals — and once again, we were treated to a showcase of some seriously exciting up-and-coming horses. Absolutely spoiled with an enormous selection of summer and autumn three-days this year, many riders’ top horses have already had their big latter-season outing, or will head on to tackle the forthcoming five-stars at Maryland or Pau, and so Boekelo this year provides a rare and exciting opportunity to give their next generation of superstars an educational experience in a championship atmosphere.

Though nobody could touch yesterday’s top four, which sees dressage leader Sophie Leube and Jadore Moi, second-placed Tim Lips and Lady Chin van’t Moerven Z, and third-placed Tamie Smith and Danito head into cross country without a second in hand between them, followed by William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht by the merest of margins, the rest of the leaderboard experienced something of a shake-up through today’s competition.

Malin Hansen-Hotopp is best of the second day with Monsieur Schnabel. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s Malin Hansen-Hotopp and the delightfully-named Monsieur Schnabel are the highest-placed new entrants, sitting fifth overnight after delivering a four-star personal best of 25.1.

“[German chef d’equipe] Hans Melzer is always saying he’s really special,” laughs Malin of the 13-year-old Trakehner gelding, the second of her two rides this weekend. “Schnabel only runs on cross-country as fast as he wants to, and I can’t do anything about that. But he’s the first horse I have for four-star again after a long time where my sons were born, and he’s given me the chance to do it all again. He’s not really the winning person, because he has his own mind, but he’s picked me back up.”

Today, though, he certainly looked keen to make himself known as a ‘winning person’, and Malin was delighted with the work he produced in the ring: “He’s always surprised, and at the beginning he was afraid of the camera, but then he was good. The changes were really, really good, and he was really looking after me and waiting. For me, it was a really perfect feeling; I think I can now just get him really to my legs, and he’s trotting better and better as a result.”

Tamie Smith debuts a superstar in Solaguayre California. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

US pathfinder Tamie Smith, who sits third overnight with yesterday’s ride Danito, has always been a force to be reckoned with between the boards, but a pandemic silver lining has allowed her access to a serious secret weapon in the form of dressage trainer Jo Hinneman, whose yard in Germany she’s used as a base during the course of her autumn European tour.

“He actually lives 20 minutes from me in California, so I’ve known him and cliniced with him over the years,” she explains. “But then with COVID, he was meant to come back to Germany and couldn’t, so I’ve been so lucky to be able to train with him over the past two years consistently. Then when I said I was coming over here to do Aachen and Boekelo, he said, ‘oh, we’re right there, perfect!’ So I came to his farm and it’s been unbelievable; I’ve gotten to ride some really good horses and the knowledge and experience has just transformed everything for me.”

And so, brimming with confidence, Tamie piloted the expressive and attractive Argentinian-bred Solaguayre California to an impressive 25.6, which puts her into equal sixth place with Great Britain’s Nicola Wilson and Coolparks Sarco, who rode as part of the British team yesterday. That competitive mark was helped along by a well-timed peak: the inexperienced mare had struggled to get her flying changes in the warm-up, but made two sweet, very slightly green efforts in the ring to score 6s and 7s, with one solitary 5 thrown in. Elsewhere in her score sheet it’s hard to see through all the 8s, particularly in the trot work, which saw her trend well in the lead in the very low 20s, giving the mare’s connections plenty to be excited about as her fledgling career unfolds — particularly as she only began her FEI eventing career last year, notching up five top-three placings out of her six international runs.

“She was amazing [today]. She’s green, and because she was bred in Argentina she won’t actually be ten until the end of the year,” she says. “And she’s been difficult at times — she bucked me off three times in a week once! — but she’s such a worker and she was so good. She’s just learning the changes, and I didn’t get a single one in my warm-up, but Jo just kept saying, ‘you’ve got to move her back and prepare her to get a more collected canter before the change.’ When you do that, sometimes you get tension, and so I was trying to balance how much I could do, but in there I was like, ‘I’m freakin’ going for it!’, and she got both of them.”

A dream comes true for Willemina Van Der Goes-Petter. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just half a point behind Tamie is Dutch debutant and talented amateur rider Willemina Van Der Goes-Petter, who made a lifelong dream come to fruition just by entering at A — let alone scoring a 26.1 with Ekino to find herself in eighth place provisionally.

“My goal was to ride at Boekelo before my fiftieth birthday, which is next year,” she says with a beaming smile. “We had the luck to find this horse, and we’ve been training for eight years for this.”

But Willemina didn’t actually buy the Dutch Warmblood with the intention of making him her top-level eventing mount: “He was meant for my husband to ride and hunt, but it was a bit too dangerous for him, so I started riding him,” she explains.

Willemina has sought advice from some of the best in the industry in pursuit of her goal, and it was Lucinda Fredericks’s voice that was in her head as she navigated her way through her sparkling test.

“She was in my mind all the way — she’s helped me a lot,” she says. “She really helped me to ride the corners, and to make a difference in the trot, and to go from the shoulder-in to the medium trot and really make every movement a separate movement.”

An emotional Merel Blom completes her test with Ceda NOP. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s been a great couple of days to be a supporter of the Dutch, who are hoping to see one of their own win their country’s showpiece event for the first time ever in this, the competition’s fiftieth year. As they head into cross-country, they do so with three riders in the top ten — and at the very end of the day, it was the reigning Dutch National Champions, Merel Blom and Ceda NOP, who would confirm the hat-trick, posting the eleven-year-old mare’s four-star personal best of 26.2 to share equal ninth position with France’s Sidney Dufresne and Tresor Mail.

Yoshi Oiwa and Calle 44 come forward as one of the most experienced combinations in this year’s field. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

US team rider Sydney Elliott holds onto eleventh place going into cross-country on her score of 26.7 with QC Diamantaire, a spot she shares with Japanese Olympians Yoshiaki Oiwa and Calle 44.

“I’m very happy; he was so quiet and calm and doing his best job, so I’m very pleased,” says Yoshi of the fourteen-year-old Holsteiner, who has been such a consistent performer despite not being the most conventional-looking horse for the first phase. But appearances aren’t everything, and even if Calle 44 could pass as a gentleman’s hunter, he’s got plenty of talent hidden beneath his unassuming exterior — and a seriously competent jockey aboard.

“Basically from the beginning to the last, I’m just concentrating on keeping the rhythm, and in the training, too — and maybe it’s also the type of the horse, that he has a good rhythm,” says Yoshi, who famously led the dressage at the London Olympics in 2012 on another mount, putting Japanese eventing firmly on the map. “It’s his character; I can put my leg on and he’s not jumping away, he’s just calm and doing his job.”

Brian Morrison’s Global Faerlie Flashy shows her power. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just a smidge behind on 27.2, Brian Morrison leads the way for Ireland with the exciting nine-year-old mare Global Faerlie Flashy, who sits thirteenth going into cross-country after making the very most of her expressive, balanced paces in the ring.

“She’s got a very good trot, and with the two mediums and the extended, this test suits her,” says Brian. “She’s still kind of green at the level, and this is just her second four-star, so we kind of went in not knowing how she’d handle the atmosphere, but she was really good.”

Just some moments of tension in the walk and one imperfect change precluded a top-ten result for the British-bred mare, who contested the Seven-Year-Old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers in 2019 and who, on paper, is close to the ideal event stamp. Her high Thoroughbred percentage and quick, clever brain have meant that Brian has become a master in the art of compromise as he’s produced her through the levels.

“She’s a very blood mare, so like all good mares, you sometimes have to take what you can get. You can’t really be too tough on her. But I think we’ve cracked the code to her — we work her harder at the start of the week and then we slow it down as the week goes on and just do lots of stretching. Once her brain quietens down she’s very easy to ride; it’s just about getting the brain on side, but once that happens, she has all the talent, and we’re really using this to get her prepared for next year and the WEG.”

Hallie Coon and the small-but-might Global Ex get their week off to a great start. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just two of our three US individuals came forward today after this morning’s withdrawal of Katie Ruppel and her longtime partner Houdini, and the close-knit contingent came out in force to support Hallie Coon and her inexperienced but exciting 12-year-old mare, Global Ex. This is a relatively new ride for Hallie, who began her partnership with the horse last November at Portugal’s Barroca d’Alva. Previously, she’d been campaigned to three-star by fellow American Katherine Coleman, who bought her as a two-star mount from Ireland’s Brian Morrison of Global Event Horses. She made her four-star debut early this year, and in four runs at the level has picked up two top-ten finishes — including a ninth place in Kentucky’s tough CCI4*-S this spring — and two further classy clears.

We’re used to seeing Hallie out and about at the top levels with her former five-star ride Celien, and although ‘Dolly’ is a very different stamp to the rangy Tenerife VDL mare who excelled on the flat, Hallie is excited about the diminutive grey’s considerable strengths — strengths that’ll surely come in handy as they make their move up the leaderboard through the weekend from today’s starting point of 32.1 and equal 32nd place.

“I thought she was super in there. She’s really green on the flat still, and we’ve been schooling the changes a lot, but she’s not quite there yet — but I’m feeling really good about the quality, overall. She tried super hard and she was a lot more up in the frame and in the contact. She’s got such a great brain and she works with me in there, and that’s the best thing I could imagine. I couldn’t be more pleased with her,” says Hallie.

Boekelo’s course, which mixes twisty combinations with open let-ups, is tailor-made for a catlike, positive type of horse — and even with the mare’s relative inexperience, that’s exactly what Hallie will be sitting on tomorrow afternoon.

“It’s a really good course for her, I think; she’s really nippy and really quick, and she’ll do just about anything she can to get between the flags,” she says. “So I think I just have to get her out there and not think that she’s small, because she doesn’t ride like a small horse. She’s got a huge stride but sometimes I can doubt the step and pull, and I just need to believe in it a little bit and push for those distances, and then I think it’ll be the perfect course for her. I think I’ve got one of the best horses for Sunday, too, and so I’m looking forward to the jumping phases a lot!”

Cross-country will kick off from 10.00 a.m. local time tomorrow, which is 9.00 a.m. if you’re in the UK and a perky 4.00 a.m. if you’re an East Coaster. Here’s how the US contingent stands on the leaderboard, and the times they’re set to leave the startbox:

  • Tamie Smith and Danito (3rd on 24.7):
  • Matt Flynn and Wizzerd (34th on 32.2):
  • Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire (joint 11th on 26.7):
  • Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestyle (joint 32nd on 32.1):
  • Hallie Coon and Global Ex (joint 32nd on 32.1):
  • Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California (joint 6th on 25.6):

And here’s a recap of the individual top ten as it stands after dressage. There’s not a second to be spared between the top three, and just four seconds covering the entirety of the top ten — and Boekelo, which ordinarily puts up a hard-to-catch optimum time, looks set for yet another shake-up as the day unfolds.

The teams, too, are closely packed, with Great Britain leading the way on a six-second margin over Team USA. Four seconds behind them is Germany, while France sits in fourth on a wider 12-second margin, hotly pursued by the home team one second behind them. Stay tuned, as we’ll be bringing you a closer look at the course to come, plus plenty of behind-the-scenes content from Boekelo. Until then: Go Eventing!

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Day One at Boekelo: Team USA Sits Close Second; Germany’s Sophie Leube Storms to Lead

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Sophie Leube and J’Adore Moi skip to the dressage lead for the second time this autumn. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

With such an incredible array of long-format events and championships on the calendar this summer and autumn, there are an enormous amount of rare opportunities to allow inexperienced horses or riders to learn and grow in pressurised situations — and that really does feel like the defining attribute of this year’s Military Boekelo CCIO4*-L. Other than the parties, obviously. The competition includes the finale of the FEI Nations Cup series, and so there’s serious competition for team and individual titles, but because each country’s first-string horses have all had opportunities to run elsewhere, the field is largely populated with the next generation of superstars, with a number of nine-year-olds and CCI4*-L debutants in the hunt.

When you get on the subject of up-and-coming superstars in Europe, the name Sophie Leube is rarely far from anyone’s lips. The former student of Ingrid Klimke has inherited her mentor’s sympathetic, effective riding style, and she’s earned herself a reputation for producing young horses, a reputation affirmed by her win in the Seven-Year-Old World Championship with the Trakehner stallion Sweetwaters Ziethen TSF last year. But now, with the exceptional mare Jadore Moi, Germany’s fledgling star continues to prove that she’s got what it takes to make it happen at the upper levels, too.

It’s hard to believe, really, that this will just be her second-ever CCI4*-L, but it is: she and Jadore Moi made their debut at Italy’s Pratoni del Vivaro last year, finishing third. Now, after the first day of her sophomore attempt, she’s leading the way by a smidgen, sitting pretty in the top spot on a score of 24.4 — just a tenth of a penalty off second place, and a tenth of a penalty better than the score she earned to take the first-phase lead at CHIO Aachen last month.

“I can’t really believe it — it’s still so new for me to be the leader,” laughs Sophie, whose spicy mount brought a bit of extra joie de vivre to the table today.

“She was very excited today; more than in Aachen. But that was when she came in to the arena, and directly when I started she said, ‘okay, I know what to do and I’m going to start listening to you!'”

Sophie Leube finds herself at the top again. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This week’s test, which features more of an emphasis on medium and extended paces early on in the movements, worked well in Jadore Moi’s favour: “There’s much more extended work in the trot, and that’s one of her really good parts, so this was a better thing for us than Aachen. I think it was good because I could ride forward and not so much sideways in the beginning, because she was so excited today. In Aachen she was a little bit more relaxed, so it was a little easier for me — it was a bit more work today, but she was great!”

Continued improvement in the flying changes, too, has helped nail down the consistency in Jadore Moi’s marks, and though she may not yet believe it when she finds herself at the top of the leaderboard, it’s clear that everyone else has noticed what Sophie can do.

Tim Lips pilots catch ride Lady Chin van’t Moerven Z to a close second place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though he was usurped late in the day by Sophie, Dutch lynchpin and birthday boy Tim Lips held the lead for much of today’s competition after producing a super mark of 24.5 with the eleven-year-old Zangersheide mare Lady Chin van’t Moerven Z, marking the first time the expressive horse has gone sub-30 at an international. But those eagle-eyed among you may recognise the horse for her partnership with another rider: Tim is catch-riding her this week to help her production, but she’s ordinarily campaigned by his student, China’s Huadong Sun, with whom she competed at the Tokyo Olympics. Now, while Sun takes some time to reconnect with his family at home after an intense Olympic lead-up in the Netherlands, Tim has teamed up with Lady Chin to take up a spot on the Dutch team and further her training and experience all in one go. But although he rates the mare, who was produced to CCI3*-L by Belgium’s Annesjien Wouters, particularly highly, he certainly didn’t expect to deliver such a significant career best effort in his first-ever competition with her.

“I was a bit surprised,” admits Tim with a smile. “I know the horse can do a very, very good test, but I also know she can be a bit tense — like at Tokyo, she had a 35.2 because of that tension. When she’s at home, you think, ‘wow, what a horse!’ So I’m really happy, because I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself this time, but I wanted to do the best I could for Sun.”

Particularly exciting were Lady Chin’s sweet, crisp flying changes, which scored 8s and 9s — giving no hint along the way that this movement has been an especially tricky one for the sensitive horse to master.

“At the beginning of the year, the changes were very difficult — she wanted to make them, but when you got past one, you’d get ten,” explains Tim. “So we really practiced it a lot, and today they were very clear for her.”

If catch-riding a horse for the first time at a CCI4*-L, nailing the changes, and delivering a test that blows all the stats out of the water isn’t quite impressive enough, try this on for size: Tim, who is heavily involved with training the Chinese event riders, spent six weeks in China in the lead-up to this event while his students contested the China Games. That left the responsibility of schooling Lady Chin firmly in the hands of Tim’s head groom Jillian Giessen, whose sympathetic, tactful approach to producing youngsters obviously paid dividends in settling the mare’s busy mind. And so a very cool, calm, and relaxed looking Tim and Lady Chin were able to dance their way into overnight second place: “I might look calm, but I’m usually not at all inside,” he laughs. “But today I knew I had to be, or it would all be over!”

Tamie Smith and Danito navigate the morning mist to set an early standard at Boekelo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The heavy mist of the morning session may have been dreary, but third-placed Tamie Smith and her perky little professional Danito cast their own ray of California sunshine in the ring, throwing down an early gauntlet with their mark of 24.7. Though it didn’t quite match their level personal best — a 23.9 picked up at Jersey Fresh CCI4*-L earlier this year — a beaming Tamie explains that it topped the bill for the diminutive Hanoverian anyway.

“He was the best he’s been,” she enthuses. “He tries so hard that sometimes he’ll struggle a bit and get a little bit tense — like, I’ll miss a change because he’s anticipated it and is trying so hard.”

But, as she points out, the impressive-moving gelding is also low on mileage for a twelve-year-old, and each outing gives him more of the experience that will help him relax into his work and produce even more exciting tests along the way. The atmosphere in the main arena at Boekelo can never be underestimated, though: it’s a busy spot, with cross-country fences alongside the boards, buzzy marquees on all sides and, overlooking the whole thing, a colossal screen that is often guilty of catching sharper horses by surprise. But Danito took it all in his stride, and Tamie found herself able to use the extra sparkle to add expression to the test.

“In the ring with the atmosphere I felt him get a little bit electric like he does, which helps him because it makes him fancy,” she says. “But it also creates tension, which you don’t want to have — but when we went down the centreline I felt him go, ‘oh, okay’, and I could ride every stride and every movement. Normally I’m kind of playing it safe a little bit, so I was super happy.”

William Fox-Pitt makes his long-awaited return to Boekelo, riding the exciting young mare Grafennacht. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I’ve not been here in eight years, and I’m struggling to recognise the place,” laughs William Fox-Pitt as he eyes the considerable improvements made to the venue in the interim, including the welcome addition of the surface in the main arena. “I keep losing my bearings — and I’ve had a bang on the head in the meantime, so I’ve got no chance of remembering where I am!”

He might not be able to find the poffertje stand (though nor can we, for what it’s worth), but William certainly looked at home between the boards today, delivering a 24.9 with the nine-year-old Grafennacht to hold overnight fifth in the mare’s third CCI4*-L start.

“She’s been in a good frame of mind, and it’s good for her to be able to get in an arena like that,” says William. “It’s great practice for the future, and she coped with it very well. She’s good at dressage, and so a few things probably could have been better — her mediums were sevens today, but they can be nines —  but overall I was really satisfied.”

Nicola Wilson and the ‘very kind’ Coolparks Sarco sit fifth after day one. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s no rest for the wicked, nor for the very, very talented, and newly-minted European Champion is back in action this week, this time riding CCI4*-L debutant and recent victor of the Blenheim CCI4*-S for eight- and nine-year-olds Coolparks Sarco.  Their 25.6 secured them overnight fifth place — an exciting start to the sweet gelding’s move-up.

“He’s still a young horse at nine and this is his first long-format at this level, so you just don’t know, really,” says Nicola. “But he’s been feeling great; he went super at Blenheim and he’s been feeling really well ever since. You don’t know until you get into an atmosphere like this how they’re going to react, but he was super.”

This week is all about building for the future for the exciting young horse, who’s learning to take confidence from his rider as he tackles more intense competition levels.

“He’s a very nice horse to work with; he still gets a little bit nervous and needs reassuring, but as he does more and more this year, he’s getting easier to reassure with my voice and a pat, and then he’s back on side,” she says. “This week is another step up and he’s as prepared as he can be, but until we ask the question, we won’t know.”

Sitting pretty in sixth place overnight is France’s Sidney Dufresne, who pilots one of the field’s most experienced horses in 14-year-old stallion Tresor Mail, with whom he finished eighteenth at the World Equestrian Games in 2018. They, too, managed to nail down a personal best today, delivering a 26.2 that leaves their usual very-low-30s scores in the dust.

Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire peak at the perfect time to sit seventh provisionally. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Perhaps there was something lucky in the air for those called Sidney (or Sydney, as it happens)? After succumbing to tension in the atmosphere of Aachen, where he posted a 39.4, Sydney Elliott‘s tall drink of water QC Diamantaire very clearly learned from the situation and used it to come back confident, cool, and absolutely brimming with the right kind of pizazz. That allowed Sydney to ride for every mark she could, and they merrily floated their way to a very respectable 26.7, the eleven-year-old Oldenburg’s best-ever CCI4*-L mark and less than half a penalty off a career best result.

But a delighted Sydney, who has carefully crafted her autumn season around a grand tour of some of Europe’s best events, wasn’t surprised in the slightest by the quality of her horse’s work today.

“This is what he’s normally like!” she says. “We could tell from the second we pulled in the other day that his whole demeanour was much more like himself. He’s so quiet, and he’s happy to have us around in the stall, and getting on him this morning for the pre-ride, it got me excited, because I was like, ‘I’ve got him today!'”

That rideability meant that Sydney could push for more expression, showing the rangy gelding’s paces at their best.

“It’s so naturally easy for him that I think sometimes, when he does get a bit panicked, it totally falls apart — but today, it was just so easy, and we want to keep pushing for more and more, but I’m happy with today!”

Padraig McCarthy’s homebred MGH Tokyo Phil eyes Paris. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy sits eighth on 27.3 with his homebred and CCI4*-L debutante MGH Tokyo Phil after a polished, professional test that proved the gelding has truly grown up this season.

“He’s really improved a lot,” says Padraig of the ten-year-old gelding. “He’s been a very weak horse, and so we’ve taken a really long time with him and he’s only stepped up to four-star this year. Every run he’s gotten better and better, and I think he’s still at the very beginning of it. I’ve got a really, really good feeling about him for the years ahead; even when he was weak and backwards, he still made good results.”

For Phil, this weekend will see him thrown truly in at the deep end: as a young horse who stepped up during the pandemic, he’s never yet encountered proper crowds, and will have his focus tested on Saturday.

“This horse is very genuine, but he’s never seen crowds like he’ll see on Saturday — so you never know how that’ll affect them,” he says. Nevertheless, the gelding is being produced with greater long term aims, and whatever happens next, he’ll learn valuable lessons for the future.

“My wife Lucy had kind of stopped riding [in 2016], but seeing me at the Olympics was making her itchy to get back to it,” Padraig recalls. “She thought, ‘we must have something in the field that can do it’, and went down and picked him out, like, ‘you look like the right sort!’ She called him Tokyo Phil, but unfortunately Tokyo came a year too soon for him — so maybe I need to rename him Paris Phil!”

Belgium’s Maarten Boon and Gravin van Cantos make their move into the top ten. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ninth place is held by Belgian team and CCI4*-L debutants Maarten Boon and Gravin van Cantos, a ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare who’s so gentle that Maarten’s children can help look after her.

“She’s the most fun horse ever,” he says with a broad grin after nailing down a super 27.7, a four-star personal best for both and a mark indicative of some very exciting things to come once the finer details have been perfected.

“We’re still struggling with the changes — the rest is quite okay, and they’re getting there,” he says. “But now we have a whole winter to work on that!”

A change of warm-up produces a sweet result for Ingrid Klimke’s Equistros Siena Just Do It. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Finally, Germany’s Ingrid Klimke opted to pare her warm-up with Equistros Siena Just Do It right down after an overexuberant test at Aachen put them on a 34.7 — but keeping it simple here, by giving the nine-year-old mare a lunge and then a short, sweet warm-up ride that didn’t make her sweat paid dividends, and they earned a very respectable 29.2 to carry into Saturday’s competition and see them round out the top ten on day one of dressage.

The top ten after day one of dressage at Boekelo.

Today’s competition saw every team competitor produce a test, which means that tomorrow’s all about the individual competitors — and we now know how each nation stacks up as they head into Saturday’s cross-country.

Though the USA lead for much of the day, a solid score of 30.6 for Izzy Taylor and her nine-year-old CCI4*-L debutant Hartacker allowed the British team, with its line-up of inexperienced horses, to drop the early score of James Rushbrooke and Milchem Eclipse and sneak into the lead. Theirs is a slim margin, though: the British team score is 81.1, while the US holds onto second place on 83.5, which works out as a six second difference on cross-country day. The formidable German front sits another four seconds behind them on 85.3, ensuring that the quest for eventual top honours will be a hard-fought one.

Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestyle. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But, says team anchor Jennie Brannigan, who posted a 32.1 to hold eighteenth place with FE Lifestyle, “I wouldn’t want to be on any other horse on cross-country day. The cross-country is easy for him; he’s got, like, an 18-foot stride.”

That impressive stride and forward-thinking attitude doesn’t always make for an easy dressage ride, but Lifestyle’s work in the ring was peppered with really pleasing moments and just a couple of little mistakes, including a slightly sharp transition into canter after the gelding accidentally knocked the board and startled himself. At just eleven years old, and with an impressive CCI5* clear at Kentucky under his belt already, there’s a lot to be excited about where this inexperienced talent is concerned, especially as he gets stronger over the coming seasons.

“This is huge for him to come here. He did a three-star back in 2017, and then I had a year off, and then he did Tryon last year and Kentucky this year, and those are the only long-formats he’s ever done,” says Jennie.

Matt Flynn and Wizzerd take a top twenty spot heading into day two. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sitting just a hair behind Jennie, Matt Flynn and Wizzerd go into day two in provisional nineteenth place on a 32.2, nearly a penalty better than the score they earned here in 2019.

“You’re always hoping for a little bit better, but on the day I’m pretty happy with that mark to start this competition,” says Matt. “He’s a real worker, a real soldier, and a really good boy, and there are just various places where we can shave things off in the future.”

The twelve-year-old gelding makes his return to Boekelo with two clears around Kentucky under his belt already, plus that confidence-building clear here two years ago, and the pair look set to help give the Brits a run for their money — even if they might need a hand warmer or two in the process: “He lives in Florida all year, so he thinks this is a lot different! He was in 100-degree weather not that long ago — now he’s been shaved and dropped in the cold end of the pool!”

Great Britain’s team of inexperienced horses leads the way — though by the smallest of margins — after the first phase.

Tomorrow’s competition sees the 28 individual competitors come forward to contribute their scores to the leaderboard, and we’ve got three US representatives among them. Here are the times in full, and here’s when you can tune in to cheer on our three American gals:

  • Hallie Coon and Global Ex: 11.26 a.m. local/5.26 a.m. Eastern
  • Katie Ruppel and Houdini: 12.35 p.m. local/6.35 a.m. Eastern
  • Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California: 2.49 p.m. local/8.49 a.m. Eastern

We’ll be back with all the news and updates you need to know — until next time, folks!

Military Boekelo: [Website] [Entries and Live Scoring] [Live-Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Wednesday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: Ingrid Klimke Relives Her Europeans Ride

“Bobby is ready for takeoff!”

We live for Ingrid helmet cams in these parts and now we’ve got a fresh one full of insights from the queen herself as she talks us through her European Championships cross country round aboard SAP Hale Bob OLD. Turn your sound on and hang on for the ride!

Fight back against joint disease and unsoundness.

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Have you grabbed your free running horse stickers? Check them out at KPPusa.com/freesticker.

All Horses Pass First Horse Inspection at Boekelo; Humans Look Considerably Worse

Eventing Nation’s coverage of Boekelo is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, our go-to source for the best support your horse can get. With a full line of proven supplements designed to help your horse feel his or her best, you can have peace of mind knowing that Kentucky Performance Products has your horse’s top health in mind. Learn more about KPP by visiting kppusa.com.

Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire await their turn in the midst of a scrum of wobbly people. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Early on in the pandemic, when the world was closing down around us and the first major event cancellations began pouring in — that moment, in short, when we all realised it was a really big deal, there was one line of conversation that so many of us eventing folk would return to as a way to maintain some hope.

“At the end of all this,” we’d console one another, “the Boekelo party is going to be INSANE.”

For the uninitiated among you, Military Boekelo, which hosts a CCIO4*-L that incorporates the finale of the FEI Nations Cup series, isn’t just the Netherland’s showpiece event. It’s also the greatest week-long party that you’ll find within our sport, and the crown jewel is Tuesday night’s welcome bash for riders and connections, which turns a humble tent in the stabling area into the world’s greatest, sweatiest den of depravity. Ever wanted to see an Olympian working a pole? Or, in fact, dangling from one as they clamber up the ceiling of the marquee? Abandon all dignity, ye who enter here, because anything goes — and boy, did it go. As Boekelo made its welcome return to the calendar for the first time since 2019 — just in time for its 50th anniversary — everyone warmly thrust themselves into the light at the end of a very, very long tunnel. And yes, I’ve reread that sentence since I typed it, and I’m going to roll with it. Blame the vodka.

My Persson, groom for Sweden’s Christoffer Forsberg, plants a smooch on Con Classic 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Somehow, though, everyone managed to emerge this morning for rainy course walks, schooling sessions, and, of course, the final preparations for today’s first horse inspection, which took place in the main arena just after lunch. Or breakfast, if you didn’t quite manage that productive morning.

Katie Ruppel and Houdini embrace the autumnal vibes. Read: it’s bloody cold. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s a slightly more compact field than we’d ordinarily see here, largely because of the welcome glut of three-days populating the calendar in the latter half of the season, but an exciting line-up of 62 horses and riders from 12 countries will tackle the competition after being accepted by president of the ground jury Andrew Bennie (NZL) and his cohorts Christina Klingspor (SWE) and Merel Schurink (NED). While the assembled horses looked very fit, fresh, and ready for action, many of the riders looked predictably green around the gills as they attempted to navigate something like a straight line. Duly noted, too, were those riders who were last seen dancing atop a table but were mysteriously absent from the horse inspection, and whose horses were presented by teammates instead. Man, it’s good to be back and delightful to suffer this much on a Wednesday.

It’s been a tough morning. Here’s Italy’s Giulio Guglielmi to make things a little bit better. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

A total of nine teams will tackle the Nations Cup competition, and though no one can eclipse the points earned thus far this season by Sweden, the 2019 series champions, the team competition title here remains a highly coveted one. The British team, made up of William Fox-Pitt and Graffenacht (“I was last here eight years ago,” he remarks, “and I recognise absolutely nothing!”), James Rushbrooke and Milchem EclipseIzzy Taylor and Hartacker, and newly-minted European Champion Nicola Wilson and her Blenheim CCI4*-S winner Coolparks Sarco will fight to add yet another victory to Britain’s extraordinary tally this year, but they’ll have particularly strong competition from a formidable US team.

Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestyle take their spot on a strong US team. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Riding high on the collective confidence that a very close team second at Aachen — and, of course, Will Coleman’s history-making win — brought, the US looks set for a seriously big week. Seven squad combinations have made the journey across the pond, and four of those will ride as part of the team: Tamie Smith and Danito join Matt Flynn and Wizzerd, who made their debut here in 2019, Aachen pathfinders Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire, and Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestyle in the team competition, while Tamie’s second ride, Solaguayre CaliforniaHallie Coon and Global Ex, and Katie Ruppel and Houdini will compete as individuals.

Hallie Coon and Global Ex make their Boekelo debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dressage kicks off tomorrow from 10.00 a.m. local time, which is 9.00 a.m. if you’re in the UK and an eye-watering 4.00 a.m. if you’re on the East coast of the US. Fortunately, the first up to bat for the US is Tamie Smith, so her California compatriots will be able to tune in and cheer her on at a slightly more reasonable 1.28 in the morning. Slightly. Here are the full times for tomorrow’s first day of competition, while the times for the US crew are as follows (the remainder of the US riders will ride on Friday):

  • Tamie Smith and Danito: 10.28 a.m. local/4.28 a.m. Eastern
  • Matt Flynn and Wizzerd: 11.32 a.m. local/5.32 a.m. Eastern
  • Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire: 12.35 p.m. local/6.35 a.m. Eastern
  • Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestyle: 2.49 p.m. local/8.49 a.m. Eastern

Matt Flynn and Wizzerd return to Boekelo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tomorrow’s competition will focus solely on the team riders, while individual competitors will come forward on Friday to join the fight for glory. As always, we’ll be bringing you all the news and updates on the action throughout the week. Well, most of it, anyway.

Until next time, folks: Go Eventing, and Go get yourself a drink. Proost!

Military Boekelo: [Website] [Entries and Live Scoring] [Live-Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

Honestly, how cool is Mary King?! She’s not just a five-star winner, she’s also now a marathon runner — oh, and she’s sailed the Atlantic, too, because apparently her capacity for adrenaline is completely and utterly untouchable. We love to see eventers doing great things, and her run in the London Marathon over the weekend wasn’t just a super new challenge for herself — it was also a way to raise vital funds for the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. What a woman.

National Holiday: It’s National Vodka Day. Cheers.

US Weekend Action:

Fleur de Leap H.T. (Folsom, La.): [Website] [Results]

Jump Start H.T. and Area VIII Championships (Lexington, Ky.): [Website] [Results]

Larkin Hill H.T. (North Chatham, Ny.): [Website] [Results]

The Maryland H.T. at Loch Moy Farm + Area II Championships (Adamstown, Md.): [Website] [Results]

Middle Tennessee Pony Club H.T. (Nashville, Tn.): [Website] [Results]

Moqui Meadows H.T. (Greeley, Co.): [Website] [Results]

Spokane Sport Horse Seventh Annual Fall H.T. (Spokane, Wa.): [Website] [Results]

Sundance Farm H.T. (Plymouth, Wi.): [Website] [Results]

Willow Draw Charity Show (Weatherford, Tx.): [Website] [Results]

UK Weekend Action:

Osberton International (2) and British Young Horse Championships: [Results]

Little Downham (4): [Results]

Your Monday Reading List:

As we head towards the tail end of another season, it’s a useful time to review rule changes that came into play over the last few months. Chief among them? This summer’s addition of the Compulsory Retirement rule, which comes into play if you have five or more rails down in the showjumping. Brush up on what the rule means — and why it exists — courtesy of US Eventing. [Rule Refresher: What is the Compulsory Retirement Rule?]

Is your horse obeying your commands — or has he shut down? Get to grips with the concept of learned helplessness, and its effects on your horse’s wellbeing, and you’ll learn to spot it when it creeps into your training programme — and that’ll help you lots in the long run. [The Slippery Slope to Learned Helplessness in Horses]

Take a sneak peek at next week’s inaugural Maryland 5 Star, and get P.Dutty’s top tips for drop fences, all in the latest edition of Practical Horseman Extra! [Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill • Dutton’s Tips for Drops]

I’ve spent three decades trying to pick up whatever wins I can, but this 17-month old kiddo has just managed her first victory. Maybe the issue is that I haven’t been dressed as a bee? I’ll try it and report back. [Tiny ‘busy bee’ rider wins at her first show – at 17 months old]

The FutureTrack Follow:

Okay, it’s WAY too early to start thinking about the holiday season, but I’ll admit I felt a few warm and fuzzies browsing through the tiny equestrian paintings — and their tiny, hanging frames that turn them into one-of-a-kind ornaments! — created by Studio 31. Their Instagram provides some great inspiration if you’re a bit arty-minded.

Morning Viewing:

Take a turn around Stable View’s Oktoberfest CCI3*-S with Elisa Wallace and Munson Slew, ahead of their run in Maryland’s CCI3*-L next week!

Friday Video from SmartPak: The Rise and Rise of Nicola Wilson, Your European Champion

We know most of you will have been ardent admirers of Great Britain’s Nicola Wilson since the days she was partnered with the exceptional Opposition Buzz, a horse who never saw a long one he didn’t like but who always pulled off the most unusual of strides with guts and gumption. But just in case you’ve been out of the loop, you might just be getting to know her now that she’s become the European Champion, a feat she pulled off with arguably one of the world’s best 10-year-olds, JL Dublin.

The Holsteiner gelding, who Nicola has produced through the levels since picking him up at the Holsteiner sales as a four-year-old, has now won the achingly tough Bicton CCI4*-L — Bramham’s replacement back in June — and the CCI4*-S at Hartpury, which is ordinarily designed to feed horses through to Burghley. But as it turns out, it works just as well as a prep run for a twisty, jump-off style cross-country track like the one in Avenches, where the Europeans was held. Whether you’re already madly in love with JL Dublin and his exceptional rider, or you’re new to the whole story and want a crash course in how the week went down, this super video from FEItv will give you the rundown of an unforgettable week in Switzerland.

The Feel-Good Gallery: A Whole Lotta Love at the European Championships

EN’s coverage of the 2021 FEI Longines European Eventing Championships is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Whether your eventing aspirations centre around winning medals, or you’re more of a ‘one day, I’ll do a one-day’ person, there’s something you’ll know deep in your bones: competing in a sport like ours, with its tremendous ups and downs, its thrills and spills, and the enormous amount of trust and teamwork required, takes love. Love for your horse, even when it’s gleefully broncing through its flying changes; love for the journey, even when it means you have to muck out and saddle up in the pouring rain before the sun’s come up, just to fit it in around work; love for the people who help you out in the biggest and smallest of ways.

Without wanting to sound too much like Hugh Grant in Love, Actually, whenever we go to an event — or, um, Heathrow Airport — we really do see that love is all around. And never is that more apparent than at the zenith of sport, when a lifetime of hard work and dreaming has come good. This year’s FEI European Eventing Championships in Avenches, Switzerland, brought us joy, tears, and the long-awaited return of hugging after eighteen long, hard pandemic months — and because we haven’t openly wept quite enough to be truly embarrassing yet, we want to relive it all. Snuggle in close and join us for the soppiest recap you’ll ever see.

The first horse inspection and the opening ceremony were perfect opportunities to catch up with old friends. 

Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier gives Ducati d’Arville a kiss after passing the trot-up. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austria’s grooms sport the outfits of the day as they cheer on their charges. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Groom Ruth Asquith plants a kiss on JL Dublin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Anna Siemer makes sure nobody forgets which team she’s riding for at the opening ceremony. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

A ceremonial cannon goes off, sending everyone into orbit in fright…

And France’s Maxime Livio takes the opportunity to practice his amateur dramatics as he mimes taking a shot to the leg. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sarah Bullimore and Piggy March have a laugh with their Team GB compatriots. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kiwi photographer Libby Law retreats after capturing an up-close-and-personal photo of the cannon fire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gwendolen Fer spots the French support side in the stands. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One man hits upon a novel method of stopping his wife from catching a glimpse of Maxime. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There were plenty of celebrations in the arena:

The Team Austria supporters make their allegiances known from the owners’ and riders’ marquee. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dr Harald Ambros takes his place in the top ten in what’s shaping up to be a seriously big week for the Austrian team. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Before he celebrates, though, there’s time for a moment of gratitude with his horse, Lexikon 2, who he kisses heartily in the ring. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nicola Wilson understood the assignment. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Maxime Livio punches the air after logging a significant personal best for eleven-year-old Api du Libaire, putting him in fourth place after dressage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andreas Dibowski celebrates a competitive test with FRH Corrida. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austria’s Robert Mandl and Sacré-Coeur provide the dark horse result of the first day to round out the top five. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Anna Siemer’s FRH Butts Avondale grins for the cameras after her test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As does nine-year-old fischerWild Wave, Michael Jung’s newest superstar. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Reigning World Champ Ros Canter waves to the audience after her first championship test in three years. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

 

The best thing to do post-test? Scoop up your nearest and dearest, of course.

Sofia Sjoborg is swept up by the Swedish team after her test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ros Canter plants a smooch on daughter Ziggy, moments after her test that would put her and Allstar B in silver medal position overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Czech Republic’s Miloslav Prihoda Jr is caught up in a wave of congratulations after an exceptional test with Ferreolus Lat earns him a 27.9. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Horses deserve smooches too, and Robin Godel’s Grandeur de Lully CH — proud owner of Switzerland’s fluffiest forelock — got plenty after producing a 27.5. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Meanwhile, Robin accepts a highly-covetable handshake from team coach Andrew Nicholson, who announced his own retirement from competition last weekend. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s Dirk Schrade sums up the vibe. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

John Perry, co-owner of Piggy March’s Brookfield Inocent, enjoys a good day in the office. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lara de Leidekerke-Meier is on the receiving end of a particularly good joke while supporting her fellow Belgians. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tamsin Thurlow gives Sarah Bullimore’s Corouet a big pat after the first of his three efforts that would eventually earn him and his rider the individual bronze medal. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And Ruth Asquith, head girl to Nicola Wilson, lets JL Dublin know what a good boy he’s been after he takes the first-day lead. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ruth gets scooped up by her fellow grooms. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Meanwhile, Nicola shares an embrace with partner Alistair. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kitty King’s Vendredi Biais enjoys a pat after a sweet, mature test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Harald Ambros gives son Paul a smackaroo after dressage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sweden’s Malin Petersen shares a jolly moment with her groom. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

A mixed crew of Italians and Swedes cheer on Stefano Brecciaroli as he finishes a super test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Shortly thereafter, he re-enters their midst for the official debrief. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Finland’s Elmo Jankari and baby Elle take in the sights as official support crew to mum Sanna Siltakorpi. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Anna Siemer and her husband are couple goals as Anna makes her German senior team debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Speaking of goals, all we want is to be part of Anna and Kitty King’s girl gang: they’ve ridden at European Championships against one another at Pony, Junior, Young Rider, and now Senior level, and their friendship has grown each time. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The whole GB horse care squad comes together to look after Brookfield Inocent with groom Amy Phillips after his test with Piggy March. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Piggy discusses the finer points of her test with trainers Ian Woodhead and Chris Bartle, while Dickie Waygood wanders off in search of a snack, presumably. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austria’s Robert Mandl impresses everyone in his senior championship debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Izzy Taylor’s Monkeying Around finds that the treats aren’t coming quickly enough, so he must make his own. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

He’s momentarily diverted from his career as an amateur hairdresser by a tickle on the nose from his groom, Becca Ross. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lithuania’s sole competitor, Aistis Vitkauskas, is well supported by a cheerleading crew helmed by Aistis’s daughter, who often enjoys hitching a ride on her dad’s ten-year-old gelding. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After taking the lead with her superb score of 20.2, Ingrid Klimke did a lot of hugging. See?

Into the lead she goes! Ingrid waves to the crowds as her 20.2 is announced. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

First, she hugged her daughter, the newly-minted Young Rider European Champion Greta Busacker. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Then, she was on the receiving end of a kiss from Germany’s team jumping trainer, Marcus Döhring, and we tried not to be too jealous. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ingrid and German chef d’equipe Hans Meltzer, who will step down this year, share a celebration after her leading test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

She hugged teammate Anna Siemer…

…and the German team vet.

Meanwhile, Bobby got lots of loving too, particularly from head groom Carmen, who rode and trained him for ten weeks while Ingrid recovered from surgery. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After a long night looking after their beloved horses with their grooms, riders could be spotted enjoying sweet moments among the tension of the final horse inspection on Sunday morning. 

Esteban Benitez Valle’s normally feisty Milana 23 goes in for a cuddle as she’s presented to the ground jury. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Overnight leaders Nicolas Wilson and JL Dublin take a moment to enjoy the misty morning. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s Christoph Wahler calms his fresh and fit Carjatan S before their jog. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Harald Ambros has the help of the tiniest groom on site to make sure Lexikon 2 is ready to go. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lithuania’s Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG look serene in the drizzle. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Anna Siemer has a chat with FRH Butts Avondale. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Czech Republic’s Pavel Brezina attempts to head back to the stables, but Cona Cia is far too busy posing for the cameras. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Team GB Performance Manager Dickie Waygood’s horoscope foretold good things, apparently. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austria’s Lea Siegl only ever stops loving on Van Helsing P for long enough to be smash out amazing performances, and we reckon that’s a pretty good work/life balance. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Czech Olympians Miloslav Prihoda Jr and Ferreolus Lat talk business before the showjumping begins.

Robert Mandl’s daughter — who often rides his horse, Sacre-Coeur, at home — helps out with horse inspection duties. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Groom Sarah Charnley and Allstar B keep an eye out for the coffee van. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sam Watson and Ballybolger Talisman look quite serious for this gallery, actually, but it’s a nice photo so we’ll let it slide. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sarah Bullimore laughs as Corouet proves he’s still fit, fresh, and opinionated on Sunday morning. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The adrenaline was high during each of the showjumping rounds, which was reflected in the intense emotions felt in the ring:

Italy’s Evelina Bertoli hugs Seashore Spring in gratitude after making an emotional return to championship level. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The king of celebrations is at it yet again: Dr Harald Ambros, the flying dentist, nails the showjumping with Lexikon 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’re not sure Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati could actually stop after her round, so enthusiastically did Oklahoma respond to the crowd’s cheers, but she was having fun, and that’s all that matters, really. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’re not sure Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati could actually stop after her round, so enthusiastically did Oklahoma respond to the crowd’s cheers, but she was having fun, and that’s all that matters, really. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Luc Chateau logs a super round with Troubadour Camphoux, who’s quietly becoming one of Europe’s coolest horses. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Switzerland’s Patrick Rüegg puts the home side’s first clear round on the board. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

They might have knocked a rail and slipped off the podium, but it’s clear how much joy it brings Ingrid Klimke to ride around a third European Championships with her best friend Bobby. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Italy’s Paolo Torlonia finally takes in the huge crowds and their vocal support after completing his debut at a senior championship. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Switzerland’s Felix Vogg clenches his fist in delight after producing a clear with Cartania to secure his spot in the top ten…

…and then encourages the bellowing, raucous crowd to turn up the volume on their celebrations. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Michi Jung, too, knows how to get the most out of the crowd — and, of course, his horse, who finishes in fourth place despite being one of the youngest in the field. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Pats for Sarah Bullimore’s Corouet after a gravity-defying clear round that would eventually secure them the bronze medal. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

They might have knocked a rail and slipped off the podium, but it’s clear how much joy it brings Ingrid Klimke to ride around a third European Championships with her best friend Bobby. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nicola Wilson clears the last and punches the air in glee after becoming the European Champion with ten-year-old JL Dublin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And outside of it, too, as each rider caught up with their support team:

Spain’s Esteban Benitez Valle gets a kiss from girlfriend Valentina after a nearly perfect round with Milana 23. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Former Italian Junior and Young Rider team member and Tokyo Olympics Eventing Organiser Carola Brighenti proves there’s nothing she can’t do as she takes on groom duties for Marco Cappai and precious Uter. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And of course, after those final medals were decided, the celebrations in the British camp — and the congratulations from outside it — were packed with indescribable joy:

Ingrid Klimke embraces newly-minted bronze medallist Sarah Bullimore, even after a knocked rail precluded her own chances of a podium finish. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

German team jumping trainer Marcus Döhring congratulates Chris Bartle — his former colleague and now ‘rival’ — for an incredible week. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The British team owners have been a source of constant cheer through the week, and they revelled in their winning moment. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nicola and teammate Kitty King celebrate in the heady moments after Nicola’s winning round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tenth-placed Izzy Taylor beams from the midst of the celebrations. Nicola and teammate Kitty King celebrate in the heady moments after Nicola’s winning round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Finally, there was the prize giving: a chance to dance on podiums, hug and cry all over again, and then lose just a little bit of control in the lap of honour:

Germany’s Anna Siemer finds FRH Butts Avondale’s sweet spot while waiting for the ceremony to begin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The bronze medal-winning Swedes pose for a group photo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ruth Asquith prepares JL Dublin for the prize giving. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Piggy March and Sarah Bullimore plant one on European Champion — and great pal — Nicola Wilson. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Luc Chateau, Maxime Livio, and Felix Vogg look like they’re about to bring boy bands back into fashion. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The all-female British team — plus individual bronze medallist Sarah Bullimore — embark on their lap of honour after a clean sweep of the medals at the European Championships. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Reserve European Champion Piggy March beams with delight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And here she is, folks: your radiant European Champion, the sunny and superb Nicola Wilson! Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ain’t love (and eventing) grand?

The 2021 FEI Longines European Championships: [Website] [Schedule and Scoring] [Entries] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Who Jumped It Best: The European Championships Edition

EN’s coverage of the 2021 FEI Longines European Eventing Championships is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Who Jumped It Best?

We’ve got a monster (in terms of fence dimensions, at least) edition of Who Jumped It Best? coming in hot from the FEI Longines European Eventing Championships, situated in Switzerland at one of the most gorgeous venues we’ve laid eyes on.

Fence 26 and 27 on course acted as a single question with a double numbered long route. The question featured a solid corner over a yawning ditch that would be enough to frighten the pants off even the best riders. The question came after riders traveled through a water combination, turning back on themselves over a table, followed by a single fence that would lead them right into this question. Despite its size, as with most “rider frightener” fences, no combinations incurred penalties here. The majority of riders elected to do the direct line here.

Take a look at our selection of pairs and vote in the poll at the bottom of this post for the horse and rider who present the most harmonious overall picture. Good luck and Go Eventing!

Aleksandr Markov and Leader (RUS). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Anna Siemer and FRH Butts Avondale (GER). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Esteban Benitez Valle and Milana 23 (ESP). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jean Lou Bigot and Utrillo du Halage (FRA). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Oklahoma 2 (AUT). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kris Vervaecke and Guantanamo Van Alsingen (BEL). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Patrick Rüegg and Fifty Fifty (SUI). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Pietro Sandei and Rubis du Prere (ITA). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Piggy March and Brookfield Inocent (GBR). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cast your vote for Who Jumped It Best:

The 2021 FEI Longines European Championships: [Website] [Schedule and Scoring] [Entries] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

Good morning from Switzerland, where your resident bleary-eyed roving reporter is only half human but still giddy with glee after an incredible week at the FEI European Eventing Championships. The latter half of this season feels like a real moveable feast after going hungry for such a long time, and with eighteen months of tough cancellations behind us, we’re now enjoying the spoils of a jam-packed calendar. An Olympic AND Europeans year all in one is almost too much excitement for my tiny pea brain to handle, but I’ve loved every second — not just because the incredible women of the British team swept every podium place available, but because to my mind, the real point of fighting for the Europeans this year was to ensure that developing nations don’t miss out on their chance for an educational championship experience. I’m beyond thrilled that they got their chance, and seized it with aplomb: the Swiss team’s fourth place finish on home soil, the first-ever Czech team in the history of the competition, and the extraordinary performances of the Austrian contingent all gave me such hope and joy for the future of our sport, which I truly believe can only thrive if it broadens its scope beyond the ‘Big Six’ nations. In the individual standings, too, up-and-coming eventing nations made themselves known: Finland’s week ended early due to an overnight withdrawal, but Sanna Siltakorpi’s two-phase performance with Bofey Click was competitive and exciting, and Lithuania’s Aistis Vitkauskas once again proved that he has one of the most exciting cross-country horses in the world in Commander VG. I’ll be bringing you some more of my searing hot takes (ha) in a long-winded reporter’s notebook this week — but first, I need to find myself some fondue, go stare at the Alps, edit another 2,000 photos, and prepare for the long drive north to Boekelo. What a great adventure life is.

National Holiday: It’s World Tourism Day, so I’m going to celebrate by speaking some appallingly poor French in town.

U.S. Weekend Action:

Stable View Oktoberfest 2/3/4* and H.T. (Aiken, Sc.): [Website] [Results][EN’s Coverage]

Twin Rivers Fall International (Paso Robles, Ca.): [Website] [Results]

ESDCTA New Jersey H.T. (Allentown, Nj.): [Website] [Results]

Old Tavern H.T. at Great Meadow (The Plains, Va.): [Website] [Results]

University of New Hampshire H.T. (Durham, Nh.): [Website] [Results]

UK Weekend Action:

Alnwick Ford: [Results]

Kelsall Hill (2): [Results]

South of England International (2): [Results]

Global Eventing Roundup:

While all eyes have been firmly fixed on the FEI European Eventing Championships in Avenches, Ireland’s Ballindenisk hosted an array of international classes up to CCI4*-L. Great Britain’s Tom Jackson took that feature class aboard the excellent Bahira M, adding nothing to their first-phase score of 33.1 to snatch the win as one of just two completing pairs. Meanwhile, the CCI4*-S went to Ireland’s Michael Ryan, who piloted Claragh Mountain to the win after delivering the fastest cross-country round of the day.

Your Monday Reading List:

When British Paralympian flashed a glimpse of a marked glove at FEI photographer Liz Gregg’s camera in Tokyo, she made a poignant stand for people with disabilities all over the world. Go behind the photo to find out more. [Behind the Photo: #WeThe15]

Fancy emulating Sarah Bullimore’s pingy, perfect clear round yesterday? Steal an exercise from her repertoire and teach your horse to stay light, balanced, and adjustable, giving you extra tools in the box for those rounds that really matter. [#SundaySchool: Sarah Bullimore’s figure-of-eight jumping exercise for focus]

We all talk about being kind to others — but are you actually being kind to yourself? In their series on building confidence in the saddle, Horse Sport considers how you can give yourself space to grow and develop as a rider by being more compassionate to yourself. [Developing Self-Compassion: Don’t be So Hard on Yourself!]

The FutureTrack Follow:

German photographer Annette Dölger can be found out and about at all the big events across the country, producing super images — and also excellent videos like this one, in which we discover that no one knows more than two lines of ‘God Save Our Queen.’

Morning Viewing:

Recap the last day at Avenches with this super roundup from our friends — and press centre table mates — at FEI TV.